Chapter 2.3: Interlude! Partnerships, Plant Medicines, and Love

This one comes in three sections. I’ve never been a cookie-cutter lover and I figure to get to know me better, I should share with you some personal things.

I. Partnerships

A snippet from last time:

I couldn’t tell you another time I was as dedicated a partner and lover as I was during that third trimester. The entire pregnancy was an opportunity for me as a human being to learn to neutralize the naturally-selfish instinct triggered by my own desires, needs or fantasies and allow space for something more unconditional. Perhaps it’s a built-in part of our biology that prepares us for becoming parents of new little creatures on this Earth (because sometimes it’s truly a test of patience and unconditional love, as Aquiles Ananda has proven).

Stories

“A divine relationship is not about two individuals honoring each other. It’s about two individuals honoring the relationship itself.”

A wise man in Hawaii once told me this. While I won’t say if I agree or not (I am much too big on intuitive love), I will say that following this creed for a spell taught me much.

Being a partner had normally been about me and my own, and much less about the relationship itself. I believed I cared about the other person’s feelings, and at times to a fault because I tricked myself into feeling responsible for the other person’s feelings, which then create a veil of superficiality in what should otherwise be an intimate and authentic relationship. My development as a person had also been important, starting with my Protestant upbringing, so when intimately entangling myself with another person I liked to believe that both my behavior and her values were in integrity with my current ethical code.

But the relationship itself? I always figured two people were choosing to be together until they chose not to be together anymore. The only times I experienced negative emotions when saying goodbye were because I’d told myself a story in my head about how in love I was, what a fantasy this would be, etc.

These were the stories I told myself leading into the months I met Lau. My own mental gymnastics blinded me, the ability to manipulate myself out of guilt was always the easier path than facing myself: my demons, my shadow. Never stopping to zoom out for a minute and realize that my actions kind of did suck towards the other person, and that’s not cool.

Maybe you’re thinking I’m about to say that meeting Lau changed all that. But nope, that would be a lie. Ayahuasca changed all that.

A full-time job relationship

A scant three months before meeting Lau in Buenos Aires, I was parting ways with a lovely woman with whom I’d lived and traveled for the greater part of the year before. She was of an age younger than I but we shared a need to deep dive into the depths of our psyche, and we were great partners for that hell of a process.

I spent a year with a relationship as my full-time job. What most would call “fights,” we called “processes” that explored deeply into our triggers and emotional outbursts. Together, we learned to share the uncomfortable truths of what was going on inside of us and own who we were. We knew those uncomfortable things triggered insecurities in the other, but we also both knew that we had to “man” up and heal those insecurities by truly encountering them instead of running from the discomfort.

It was a beautiful and vibrant relationship. We finally realized that we needed to focus on other things, because the amount of “processing” we did was on par with having a child. (Now that I’ve experienced both, I can’t even admit to exaggerating on that one.)

We said goodbye on top of an indigenous mountain in the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia. We’d been chasing opportunities to make films about uplifting endeavors in the world, and it was at our most recent stop that she ended up staying on. It was an ecovillage project that at times hosted indigenous plant medicine ceremonies, a la ayahuasca.

I didn’t wander far, and ended up at another property nearby that valued these practices. That mountain seems to attract a lot of unique Westerners searching for certain so-called spiritual experiences, and thus a very diverse community had formed there, focused on the yage ceremonies (more commonly known as ayahuasca).

II. Yage (Ayahuasca)

Ayahuasca (or yage as it is called in this region of Colombia) is a plant brew that has been consumed in a shamanic setting in the Amazon for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And it had been on my bucket list of things to experience for at least ten years. Many cultures call it la medicina, simply “the medicine,” because of the healing capabilities it offers on such a wide spectrum. (It’s made quite the splash in the last 20-ish years, even Fox News has covered it.)

I had always heard about the brew coming from the mainstream hallucinogenic sense—let’s trip out, man! Until I was finally introduced to it during this time, I did not know that hallucinations, typical of psychedelic experiences, were not even considered a consistent feature of the medicine. Many people report uneventful, even boring first ceremonies, and this is often why a week-long retreat will host at least three ceremonies in that time. The medicine needs to get to know you.

My First Ceremony

My first ceremony was not at all boring. My first time could not have been more cliche with the most fantastical of psychedelic voyages through hyperspace, into the soul, encountering the “mystical machine elves” experience, and all that. Following is a brief rundown (and my old YouTube channel has a video of me going into some depth on the experience).

We were a group of about twenty people. At first that kind of bothered me because I thought a more intimate setting would be more powerful. Later I realized that I probably would not have blasted off as far as I did if there wasn’t a grounding container of so many people there. I would be the only person to freak out.

We got started a bit after sundown, near 8pm. I was grumpy, miserably tired and weak after a poor night’s sleep and a long day of fasting. I felt nothing but the need to sleep after the shaman gave me my first dose, a pasty sticky goo that made me want to vomit right away. After an hour or two of nothing, I forced myself to accept a second cup just because I had wanted this for so many years. Shortly after swallowing the second cup, I took my third trip to the foliage to vomit and once purged I was suddenly no longer able to walk.

Shaky and cold, I had to crawl on my hands and knees back to the group to ensure I didn’t fall over off the jungle cabana deck and onto the wet forest floor. I hadn’t yet had the faintest whiff of a psychedelic experience, just discomfort. Someone had taken my hammock earlier during my attempt to get closer to the fire—a source of warmth—so I suddenly had nowhere to go and no strength to get there. I didn’t have enough clothing or blankets, and something inside me (la medicina) needed my body to let go of itself. But for that I needed to not be uncomfortably cold.

Worst of all this, no one would help me. No one cared. Don’t they see me here trying to get warm, with obvious discomfort?

What woe is me, right?

I started crying, down there in the dirt. With my arms across my chest, back up on my stomach, at least I could generate some heat to my torso. I was hardly noticing my commune with the scattered ants that somehow ended up by my face down there, late at night. Whoever had stolen my hammock had finally relinquished their prize, so I mustered up the strength to climb back into it. I finally was able to settle into a space physically comfortable enough to relax.

La medicina didn’t waste any time. I was catapulted into the infinite. Once my eyes were closed, I couldn’t look away, couldn’t escape, couldn’t be bothered as a twisting vine dragged me inwards towards an abyss that would never crystallize. I noticed after a moment that I was losing consciousness but I had no strength left to fight it. I said goodbye to myself and time and what happened next could have been a minute or an hour.

For an eternity I swung down this brightening cosmic staircase, the twisting helix of the universe. (Perhaps it’s inaccurate to say it was “me” because I have no words to share of what transpired on this journey.) Suddenly a deep black hole opened up in this brightening and twisting stairway, this helix that “I” would later believe had been my own DNA.

The black hole approached until “I” could feel it. It was extreme pain—pain? Was that it? I use that word now because it’s how a human would experience where “I” was at the time, which was approaching a black hole no pain and all pain at the same time. A humming singularity of everything that transcended the duality of human experience.

This was pain in its pure form, and I was witnessing it without experiencing it.

Its humming sound grew later until it swallowed “me” whole.

I don’t know how much time passed after everything went black. Or white. I was off in the stars.

“Spiritual” Surgery

I’d be fabricating this portion of my tale if I tried to explain the visions that passed through me during the period of time that la medicina had me under. But I will tell you what it showed me: from blaming the girlfriend who always seemed to have critiques for me that I couldn’t handle, to blaming my shitty situation without warm clothing or blankets, to blaming blaming blaming anything and anyone but myself, I never stopped to even consider taking responsibility for my situations. Maybe I acted like it. But it was never real.

Why? Because I’d liked to be the victim. I enjoyed crying myself to sleep at night, feeling bad for myself with a full belly and warm bed, when I just wanted to mope. I always had. It was like an addiction.

I remember times as a kid, with my friends or cousins, when some part of my personality came off wrong, and I was made fun of. Or shunned, ganged up on. It never lasted long, but I held onto these things. These memories would come up every time I’d feel misunderstood and unjustly served an imbalanced, unequal situation. And here I was, almost 30 years old, and still finding it acceptable to surrender to being a victim. To the world hurting me, helpless.

I was born in the classic cage with classic golden bars. I’d decided to leave the cage and there were no keepers to hold me, and I was never told about the cage I left. And I never could handle it. La medicina was showing me that only I could teach myself to fly.

Healing

My consciousness eventually returned, slowly, to the recognition of a sound. Far away and distant, but ever-growing closer as the universe zoomed out—or was it zooming in?—leisurely through a spiraling tunnel towards a single point of focus—somewhere with life. A crossfade from the eternal hum of everything, into that sound getting closer. An uncomfortable sound.

That sound was a scream. A powerful cry of pain. And it was coming from somewhere familiar. Something about its vibrating resonance is something I know. It is coming from Jordan.

Jordan is me. I have a body. I have a life—I am in pain. I have been in pain.

And Jordan is finally letting it out.

The scream, one long solitary cry that undoubtedly echoed out into the neighbors homesteads in the valley below, slowly pulled me back into the body I’d always associated myself with. I was in tears but didn’t know how they got there. No feeling in my limbs, no strength in my body—I basically was not a body, what’s a body anyway?—but there was solace in my heart. I was fragile but oddly blissful in my vulnerability.

I felt free. Even though I couldn’t move.

I had been knocked out, put under the needle, and now I was coming to perceive the preliminary results of the operation: joy. Authentic, unbounded, unadulterated joy. This is a new level of contentedness in life I am now capable of experiencing.

La medicina.

(That’s not quite the end of the story of that night, but it’s enough to keep our character development moving forward. I’ve written more from that night, you can keep reading over on my blog.)

Love

Maybe you’re thinking I’m about to say that meeting Lau changed all that. But nope, that would be a lie. Ayahuasca changed all that.

It didn’t take long to get a chance to see how ayahuasca had changed my thought patterns and reactions in the everyday life. I departed Colombia for Buenos Aires two days before New Years and hardly 5 weeks before meeting Lau. La medicina was often on my mind but I had no one to talk to about it. (They say it takes about three months for everything to integrate.)

Bachelorism in Buenos Aires

Hovering around Tinder in an effort to make friends and explore the legendary beauty of Argentine women, I soon found myself repelled by this notion in my head that each woman I matched with would play out as some bizarre relationship fantasy. In fact, this had actually been my practice for years now. Keep traveling, keep searching for some divine perfection that can’t actually exist in reality.

It was beginning to feel kind of mental. I started wondering why meeting new people/girls was so important: was I lonely? Or was this just a way to stay busy?

This type of reflection is a commonly reported effect of ayahuasca. You have a keener awareness of what is good for you. (Even though some times it sucks, because before the ceremony you’d been having fun.)

I was pondering this when I matched with Lau. She wasn’t really a Tinder user like I was (after all, she hadn’t been gung-ho life-on-the-road for the last decade) but there was something certainly synchronistic in the presence and attention we gave each other from the get-go. I had spent January 2019 getting to know the different style of women and dating in Buenos Aires, and I was not impressed.

At this stage of my sojourn in “the capital of an empire that never existed,” I was desperate for anyone that offered a little genuine-ness. I never really vibed with city people, even though I told myself that I could vibe with anyone. I think it’s because of the general disconnected-ness of so many individuals that could other compromise a fun and supportive community (because you see, my real people live in nature, play music naked, eat good food, and cherish every minute of life too much to waste in the stress of what city life normally represents). At the end of the day, I was doubly-jinxed because my self-sensitivity towards love was way up after la medicina.

Even the women my age, who in my head should be trying to settle down a bit from the ravaging online dating dimension of your twenties, seemed to be extremely horny and more concerned with sexual relationships more than anything else. My restraint was respected, but it was also tantalizing. I was torturing myself. I had no desire to mingle with women that didn’t match my value system and that I didn’t love, but oh man.

What is love?

Lau though, she was easy to love. Without worry of judgement, she hardly even noticed what for others had been my very distinguishing qualities in the online dating scene here. She matched my value system of the moment. She still does. Before long, she lovingly pointed out how much I loved to fight, reinforcing what the ayahuasca had opened up to me: I am the common denominator, each and every time. Not the world outside. It’s all coming from me.

Most of all, Lau just wanted to love me. Why was it so hard to just accept that?

It’s funny when we realize how simple our requirements are. I’d spent so many years imagining the perfect partnerships, resigning myself to a life of nomadic solitude, or blaming others for not being the fantastical image of perception that cannot exist while it is being imagined. The first few months leading into her magically becoming pregnant was a process of shedding all that over-complication and allowing a woman to simply love me.

Monogamous, polyamorous, or stagnant patterns?

One of the most intense processes of my early adulthood was personal freedom. I had tried girlfriends and relationships but the attachment and boundaries part didn’t make sense to me. I was a lone wolf, a solo traveler, and experiences for such a person were never as profound when a pre-existing relationship was around—especially when that relationship was romantic—because I had to “be” a certain identity for them and thus was not free to explore a new facet of myself in the face of new faces, culture, and places.

For this it was a rocky trip through my twenties, with very clear peaks and valleys. I wanted companionship but no boundaries. I wanted to roam free but wanted a foundation with another to feel safe with. I wanted to get deep with someone while remaining free to bounce away all of the sudden when a whim called me. I thought I could have both, but those “deep” relationships would eventually trickle away with each wormhole opened by a new trip into the unknown.

Due to the core nature of this voyage of self-discovery, there was no space for a second passenger whether I liked it or not. I refused the love of not just a few women who truly wanted to offer me what I would inevitably, eventually be seeking. All’s well that ends well, but I definitely look back in shock some times at how silly I was.

I’ve come to believe that a big part of that lifestyle was my addiction to the “oxytocin hit.” It feels good to feel in love, to have a crush, because your brain is unloading a ton of the same chemical that the brains of breastfeeding mothers and their babies create in order to create a lifelong bond. I would chase these hits, telling myself I wanted to be in love, fall in love and ride the hit, and then crash hard when I realized that I preferred to be alone.

Rinse and repeat.

All ways love

On the night Lau and I met, I broke all comfort boundaries to make it clear that I didn’t “do” monogamy, nor entertain expectations of a monogamous relationships. Not only did I still believe that boundaries were the enemy, but I refused to give up my identity as this rambling cowboy (mainly because every women that had ever taken me seriously expected me to make concessions).

Saying that kind of thing was normally a turn-off for women, in my experience. It was my filter to see how they perceived and used their capacity for intimacy. Who wants to hear from a potential relationship investment that they might turn around and choose to love someone else one day? In today’s world, not many people.

Lau was no exception, she didn’t want to hear that. But she accepted it. She accepted me. Maybe Lau knew that such declarations were merely a subconscious calling for me to feel safe in the face of something new, unknown, and powerful: a relationship that transcended self-ascribed identity.

Sure enough, as seems to be the trend in “relationship karma,” Lau had deeper issues based on experiences with men. My transparency was a clear opportunity for some growth to be had. To have me communicate so openly was something new that gave her the space to observe how she was feeling in regards to her own things she was still carrying.

When all was said and done, we trusted each other in our own vulnerabilities. And that’s what made this so special.

Back to the future

So there we were, a year after meeting, 8 months pregnant, February 19, 2020, a scant few days before my birthday. I explained to Lau that I need to take a trip for the last alone time I’ll have in, well, a long time. To reflect on who I had been for all these years, before moving into a new phase. It’ll be a birthday celebration, a trip to my fiftieth country as a solo traveler, and a chance to see an old friend. One last time to feel the wind at my neck, figuratively speaking, one last time.

She wished me luck and bade me farewell, dropped me off at the airport. I drank a Corona at the airport bar.