Looking back on old journal entries, written prior to me even booking my trip to Colombia, I found myself expressing distress, in the grips of neurosis – a wild woman screaming out for her ancestors. My ailments were a tightly wound mixture of the physical and the psychological, getting tested for intense stomach pains and fighting the looming sense of death, heavy in my chest. Frightening people who looked in my eyes. I’d cry as if saying goodbye to my friends, as if I wouldn’t be around much longer. “I feel disconnected from my cosmic self,” I wrote in my journal. And not but a month later, this trip came to me as if by writing those words, I somehow tugged on the strings of the cosmic fabric – bending its shape towards my prayer.
Ironically, the sense of death began haunting me while I was recording Femina-X songs at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, TX, right in the middle of tracking vocals for our song called “Cosmos.” Situated within a pecan tree farm, our studio was the most secluded and engulfed in a somewhat eerie presence. Seasonal allergies were high, I came down with bronchitis instantly, and nosebleeds were frequent; air pressure shifts were draining my energy.
“Cosmos” is a ballad put to drum and bass beats, a slow build rapid-fire composition that mounts up to the chorus chant “I want to be one with the cosmos, I want to be one with the cosmos, I want to be one with the cosmos, I want to be one with the cosmos.” The ending explodes into a bass saturated half time wobble, I transform voice into wails that grow into screams. I imagine the birth of the universe or an exploding star, some sort of cataclysmic hyper energy bust that is disintegrating and becoming something new all at the same time.
I’d been screaming through takes, trying to control the bronchitis with my inhaler, and taking a downward turn as exhaustion set in. Finally, during the last take, I thought I’d hit the right note and put my last muscle into sustaining it for as long as my body could go. In that moment, my throat fully expanded, I felt a rush of fear inhabit my being entirely. A flash of darkness shaded my eyes, things went sideways as I caught my balance and tried not to faint.
Something inside of me was terrifying and terrified at the same. The screams coming from my body didn’t feel like they were just mine. A burrowed reservoir of pain being released, like the unconscious had slipped through the cracks. As soon as our session was done, we headed back to our resident home where I wept, feeling as if something – a spirit, some entity – entered my body right in that moment of sheer vulnerability -screaming like a mad woman in the middle of the desert.
We were home a week later. I couldn’t shake the welling darkness inside of me. In frenzied desperation, I wrote in my journal “I feel disconnected from my cosmic self. I need to leave. I need to be be healed.” Two months later, our plane landed in Medellin, Colombia. The first person we met was a shaman’s housekeeper who took us to our first site of ayahuasca ceremony, a sumo tambo nestled within the lush mountainsides of Girardota.
I’ll never forget the screams of women who’d lost their children, men who’d never been loved by their mothers, the wails from those who’d seen their brothers and fathers murdered. Over the chants and through the smoke of shamans – the great exchange of energies brought with it an undeniable sense of sanctity; and there I learned the most important aspect of ayahuasca ceremonies – purging. The screams, the wails, and the vomit. As soon as the brew is administered to each person, a blanket of silence falls over us – babies, children, teenagers, adults, and elders alike are slowly becoming overtaken with the spirit of the medicine – coming into contact with visions, feeling the shift in their bodily functions as the brew opens their stomach up for the reception of Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, the active ingredient which guides us into inner and cosmic realms. Everyone is prepared for something startlingly real, a death of ego – a journey into their own mind, insight into the nature of the universe, a memory of pain that had yet to be sutured, an awakening of the self and the grandiosity of existence as it pertains to reality and surrealities alike.
The only thing I could feel for the first two ceremonies was frustration. The pain in my stomach that had had me in and out of clinics coming back from Sonic Ranch was just unbearable and the only thing I could do was pray for some answers -close my eyes and truly feel the pain, follow it to its source. And the more I did that the more the medicine began to reveal some revolutionary truths to me. I began to see the trails of thoughts inside of my body; every anxious, ego-driven, malignant thought I produced inside of my mind and how with them the pain in my stomach grew and grew. I could literally see a map of how each thought deposited itself inside of my guts creating a knot, much like a rubberband ball which pulsated the same pain and negativity throughout my entire system.
There was a great “aha” moment for, not just me, but for how the ego, when gone unchecked, causes direct illness within humans, and how physical manifestations of thoughts have a widespread capacity for disease. I couldn’t help but think that my American self was such a manufactured version of me. I began filtering back through layers and layers of persona-based psychological constructs and found that as my truest self, I am just a child of nature, light, and sound. As we all are. When you realize that you, in your innermost layer, – beyond all flesh and illusions of self and just by sheer divine creation – resides a seat of love, you stop beating yourself up about a lot of things. Especially things that don’t nurture that love. Because once its been felt, when the ayahuasca takes you by the hand and, while in trance, you see the truth of yourself, it’s hard to go about your daily life with the same propensity for inflicting punishment upon yourself. For who you think you are, who should be, what you could be or aren’t. American philosophy romanticizes excessive busy-ness, the nervous compulsion to remain in motion, constantly plugged into the material world as a safeguard, a comfort, a validation that we are in some way progressing and pushing forward. But there are follies to the industrious human or at least, some serious spiritual and mental health risks involved.
This realization incited both joy for the new understanding and nausea, as if now the purge would finally clean out whatever I’d been harnessing from years of simply living life less aware. So finally, after 5 five hours of meditation, out in the mountains of Colombia, staring into a cliffside overtaken by brush, into a hole which drew me in as hundreds of crickets sizzled in loud unison, I fell to my knees and heaved and heaved and released. Two women came to my side with whispered prayers, blessing the air which now graciously held my pain. My knots slowly began becoming replaced with love, like cool water.
Ascent——Ceremony with Taita Domingo
Three cups of the brew and 6 hours of meditation into this ceremony, speaking in tongues, probably an ancient language residing within me from generations past, as if I was learning how to speak and sing all over again, me and ayahuasca, hand-in-hand, climbed into a void of darkness in my chest and pushed a great ball of light inside of it. Never in my existence had I felt such purity and full knowing of love within me and the same love within me present in every tiny speck composing the tapestry of all things both in physical and metaphysical worlds. In those moments, I recalled the opening line of “Cosmos” and how serendipitously my words back then held more truth than what I’d set out for: “All life commits to the inevitable, the shining swirl. The love above, all around. Feeding electric pulse. The shining soul.” And how the song, in the most basic sense, signifies a search for god. Breaking the darkness and arriving at the presence of love within myself felt very much like finding god because the knowledge of god is, in the end, the same thing as self knowledge. In essence, “Cosmos” had manifested itself completely and I had, at long last, felt god in all her glory.
Carl Jung, a thinker whose work I study and practice, called it enantiodromia, which means that a super abundance of any force inevitably produces its opposite, and within the pull of extreme opposites, a balance is created. Enantiodromia usually occurs with symptoms of neurosis and more often than not, foreshadows a rebirth of personality, which resonates very closely with the plummet I felt occur during “Cosmos.” And, I now realize that through my screams, I had unintentionally entered that state of descent, much like what is performed in these sacred rituals and I had landed myself into a sort of purgatory purge- an unguided primal energetic release-stuck within the bowels of nature’s intentions for me. Through those bouts of sickness and screams, Colombia had been an answer to an intuitive need for rebirth. And now, a part of me, a shell, a former cocoon will forever remain in those mountains; as I had dreamed and pressed towards. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Listen and Support “Cosmos” by Femina-X here.