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” I realized for the first time in my life that I was actually free “

   No words were spoken, I was just profoundly touched by the stark reality of that moment. I’ve had many beautiful and profound experiences working with Ayahuasca, but the story I’m going to share with you is actually the one that most impacted my life.So we were doing a ceremony out in the desert and it was an all men’s ayahuasca work. Things were going kind of normal, we are all sitting around this fire, listening to the songs of the maraca. And at some point, I become aware that there’s this guy standing next to me. As the music continues to play, I realize that everybody in the circle is accounted for and I said to myself: “okay, wait a minute, that’s weird… well, somebody must have joined in.” Despite trying to make sense of “it,” I couldn’t help but feel the presence of a person standing next to me. When I finally looked over, the person who was there was my father who died five years earlier, as clear as me looking at you – there was my dad. He said to me: “Great, I’ve been trying to get your attention. I think you and I should take a walk”.  My dad and I start walking off into the desert. No words were spoken, I was just profoundly touched by the stark reality of that moment. I finally stopped and as I stood there he said: “You know, there is something I’ve been wanting to share with you”. And as he said that, my two grandfathers appeared – my mother’s father and my father’s father. They said: “we brought you here because we want to apologize for all the pain and suffering that we caused you.” Profound silence followed, of course. And then I suddenly had all these memories rise of the pain and suffering they were talking about that I had very successfully blocked away. 

I had a memory of my father’s father coming after me one night because we were jumping on the bed and disturbing him. He had this jute rope and he was whipping the sides of all the kids there, me included. Then my grandfather from my mom’s side brings me to a similar experience, showing me all these beatings and welts all over my body. And then I had all the memories of the years of my father doing this same kind of abuse with a leather belt.  As I recall my memories, this incredible anger came up that I had never experienced before, which I think was all the anger I had ever felt about those incidents that I was not allowed to express. I started telling them how pissed and upset I was at them, and it felt really good because I felt like the little boy inside of me was finally able to confront them. Just when I finished with my rant, another vision came to me – this time I was in Africa, watching slaves running through grasses, being chased and fearing for their lives. And I was them, I could feel it. I was seeing them being tied up, put onto boats that were coming to America and being slaves. In that moment I realized why my ancestors were showing me this vision, they did that to me because that’s what happened to them. Their father’s father beat them and their fathers beat them and it went all the way back to slavery in this country.  It was huge. And in that moment, this incredible exhilarating lift happened. It was a sense of freedom. I realized for the first time in my life that I was actually free. I was liberated from that experience

Interviewer: Kirill Ignatieff (founder of 22STORIES)

Photography: 22PORTRAITS

Story editor:  Seema Seraj


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Project Description

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive medicinal mixture of plants used for healing purposes in a ceremonial setting. The next morning after each ceremony a “Sharing Circle” takes place where all participants share their spiritual journey from the night prior.  The stories that come out of those sharingcircles are very profound and life-changing, but only very few have access to them. This project is about sharing those stories with a broader audience and help people understand the power and the benefit of the medicine and it’s community.