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Elan Vitae


  • J Bristol


The journey started over coffee with a dear friend. A harmonic friend, one I’ve known for many lifetimes. As he sat there recounting his experience with bufo alvarius (5-meO-DMT, considered the most powerful of psychedelics) in a remote natural sanctuary, I knew then I would be making my way to this place and this experience.

I had attempted several times to participate in the traditional plant ceremony, ayahuasca (DMT) many years before, but was always inhibited by a last-minute limitation. After several interrupted attempts, I finally got the message that it was not the right ceremonial experience for me. Ayahuasca soon became highly en vogue and by that time I had lost interest. Not thinking much more about it, I trusted I would be guided to the right experience and at exactly the right time.

This was it. This was definitely it. As I sat across from him, my whole body began to vibrate and I felt the connection to the process begin. At once I was connected to the place in the jungle where we would meet, the medicine man and his partner who would be my guides, and the medicine itself. I was excited, with full knowing this was the next step on my path. Unlike many who make their way to this type of ceremony, I was not seeking healing or relief from trauma, but rather an expansion of my awareness and my path, purpose, and place in the Universe.

We set out early toward a remote corner of fertile land near an active volcano in southwestern Mexico. Leaving behind the heavy, humid air of the pacific coast, we wove through the mountains and into the cooler, fresher air. The day began with a sweat lodge for purification before the ceremony. The Mayan tradition of this “temezcal” was different from the Native American Lakota traditions I was used to. It was fairly short in duration with the guide chanting the entire time. We emerged from the sweat and dowsed ourselves in cold water, clearing the release and sealing the self to move forward into the bufo ceremony with that newly gained clarity.

Next, we walked the foot path further beyond the sweat lodge site and deeper into the jungle, but on the same property. The narrow trail was barely a trail. It was thick with lush greens and massive, wildly-grown tropical flowers. Shortly, the path opened to a clearing and at the far edge of the clearing was a flat space with a thatched roof. Only those who were participating in the bufo ceremony and the guides were permitted to enter that space. My guides were clear that the medicine we would be using that day came from a trusted personal source who had ethically harvested the medicine himself from the bufo alvarius toad in the Sonoran desert of northern Mexico.

As this would be the second journey for my friend who accompanied me, he agreed to go first so I could see what his experience was like. After inhaling the medicine, closing his eyes, and lying down on the woven mat, he braced his body rigidly with his arms down by his sides, fists clenched, arms and legs both engaged and reaching long. A vast smile came over his face and it was as if I could hear his entire being scream, “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!.” as he barreled down some sort of shoot or slide in the ethers. Soon his body relaxed and he laid still on the mat for the remainder of the journey. The guides maintained a close watch, circling him and maintaining a rhythm with a soft, calf-skin drum. He emerged refreshed and recovered quickly.

My turn. My anxiousness gave way to resolution as I made my way to the mat. “This is so divinely orchestrated,” I reminded myself. “This ceremony, this space, these people, at this time and space have all aligned for my highest good and self-evolution. “ Just as I sat down on the mat, large rain drops began to fall. Softly, gently, they gathered the rhythm of the flora and fauna around us. A squirrel came to the corner of the covered flat space as if he were pulling up a chair on the side of the road to enjoy a holiday parade. He sat and watched contently as the guides prepared for my ceremonial journey. The rain picked up and another squirrel joined from the upper beam of the thatched roof. Next, the birds began to gather in the branches of the neighboring bushes and trees, making noise only to arrive, then sitting in silence.

One guide held the small glass pipe to my mouth as the other softly drummed. I inhaled deeply, drawing more and more vapor from the toad venom into my lungs. They softened my arrival down to the mat, but before I got there, my journey had begun.

I remember nothing of the physicalness of the experience. My friend filled me in afterward. I was shocked to learn that I had violently thrashed about on the mat and screamed at the top of my lungs for the majority of my time with the medicine. When my consciousness began to return to the physical plane, my body relaxed and I was surrounded by the warm, loving space and gentle drum rhythms the guides had created for me . . . and the smell of fresh tortillas.

Upon opening my eyes I asked, “How long was I away, 40 years?” “No,” my guide sweetly smiled “about twenty minutes.”

I rose to the sitting position marveling at how completely whole and integrated I felt, both within myself and within the oneness of consciousness. As we left the property that day, we were advised by one of our guides that the medicine would continue to work for 21 days. We were to take precautions in our environments and with whom we interacted during that time, especially when encountering the smell of fresh tortillas. (!!!) A lightbulb went off when she mentioned this particular precaution. “Around tortillas?” I asked. “That’s right.” she said. “The after-affects of the medicine smell like tortillas so encountering that scent out in the world can pull you back into the journey and out of the physical realm of consciousness.”

In the days that followed, I was more conscious of the process. Each time I closed my eyes, the soft scent of tortillas would waft in and I’d go back to the journey, but with more awareness. I would see shapes and paths and tunnels. There were fragments and fractals. Time and place did not exist there. I was greeted by aspects of myself that spoke very clearly my truth and wisdom from within - from myself to myself. The silence was spectacular. A deeper, richer, clearer silence than I had ever experienced. And each time I opened my eyes, I returned to the incredible sense of being fully integrated with myself and all that is.


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