This is the first time in history, where because of what’s been going on politically, and also on the news/media, the question of reality, in general, has been coming up. Like is this real? Is this not real? What going on? Is it real or not? We spoke with Zach and his wife Jess who are space holders at La Familia Ayahuasca, a new medicine retreat on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
They found each other after Ayahuasca completely changed their lives as individuals. It ultimately brought Jess to Camino do Amor, where Zach was holding ceremonies and retreats. You could say that when they realized how psychedelic life really is, it changed their lives.
“Before discovering ayahuasca, I was an institutional stockbroker for 10 years. Then I started drinking ayahuasca and it took me about nine months before I was like ok, I’m going to quit my job.” Says Zach. Jess, his wife, was a lawyer in international commercial arbitration. Working with the medicine helped them both see life through a different lens and, ultimately, devote their lives to working with Ayahuasca and other plant medicines.
“I would say that working with Ayahuasca helps us deal with what is called the ‘groundless ground’, which is a Tibetan Buddhist concept. That is, you have to get comfortable in this lack of ground or lack of any true reference point around the true nature of reality. This is something, that when we really look deeply into our situation, exists throughout life.” says Zach. “And this work, particularly with Ayahuasca, helps us with being ok in these overwhelming situations that we are experiencing today.”
Overwhelming might even be putting it lightly. More and more often, seekers are turning to retreats to help bring understanding or perspective to a world that seems inside-out and backward - groundless, as Zach put it. Without a solid sense of what is real in the world, it can feel difficult to orient ourselves to life.
But what are we orienting ourselves to anyway? “In fact,” Zach says, “I think… one of the great teachings Ayahuasca can provide is helping us understand the idea that we are not actually in control, life is in control. The overwhelm that we feel is often a self-imposed resistance to ‘what is’. Ayahuasca can help us loosen our grip on what we want things to be, acknowledge ‘what is’ and go with the flow of life.”
“One of those questions that you hear a lot is: Is Ayahuasca going to make me quit my job?” says Jess. From their experience? “Maybe.” But don’t let that stop you from taking the next step into your work with sacred plants. It’s not all about making wild leaps into the unknown -- just changing how you relate to it.
“During our retreats, we conduct regular integration circles after each ceremony and before anyone leaves our retreat, we remind our guests about continuing the integration process out in the world.” Zach suggests this frame: “With big decisions, give it some time and really consider the ramifications or consequences of such a big decision. Is it skillful? Is it for the benefit of all involved? Or, is it this an egoic reaction of ‘f*ck it I’m out of here’ kind of decision?”
So what happens when you leave the safety of the retreat center? Jess offers this insight: “Ayahuasca is really good in showing us truly what our priorities are in our hearts so we can go back to our lives and we can reorganize them and reflect the new priorities.”
Bingo. You may not need to quit your job, but you might need to completely shift your priorities and lifestyle to hold yourself skillfully on the groundless ground. In some ways? Sitting in ceremony receiving beautiful wisdom is the easy part. What you do with your insight afterward is where the true challenge of integration begins.
Are you up to the task?