Why I Quit My Job After I Tried Ayahuasca In Peru

Written by Michael Sanders

Editor's note: This is a personal essay about one man's experience and should not be taken as advice.

Many people think they are happy, but they aren’t always fulfilled. At 26, I was precisely this: a successful advertising executive who was in search of greater meaning. And so, I travelled to Peru in hopes of finding clarity and purpose.

In December 2013, alongside two of my best friends, I arrived in Iquitos, Peru, before venturing into the jungle with wonderful guides and people who would become lifelong friends. We explored the Amazon River and rainforest, encountering snakes, spiders, pink dolphins and monkeys.

We played soccer with locals on an unkempt field. We boated under starry night skies in search of caiman alligators and were soaked by torrential downpours that flooded our rubber boots. Each night, we slept in a rustic lodge, and each morning, we were woken by the symphony of the rainforest.

After a week of connecting with the jungle, I felt more at peace than ever before. And then, on New Year’s Eve, we arrived to the grounds of a small healing retreat center nestled deep in the rainforest, where we would partake in three Ayahuasca ceremonies over the course of the next four days.

For those unfamiliar, Ayahuasca, often referred to as "Mother Ayahuasca", is a psychedelic and medicinal beverage brewed from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and, in my case, chacruna leaves containing dimethyltryptamine (aka DMT).

Amazonian Peruvians have been using the brew for centuries, for its divinatory and healing properties. With the brew’s ability to provide clarity about life and our universe to its drinkers, many Westerners have called it, “30 years worth of psychotherapy in a night.”

According to shamans, plants have a double function: they can be used medicinally to treat various illnesses, or as "plant teachers." Ayahuasca is said to have a female spirit, and a specific diet of avoiding all salt, spices, red meat, pork, alcohol, drugs and sex should be practiced for 1-2 weeks leading up to ceremony.

While I was skeptical of a plant having a female spirit and of the need to modify my diet, I remained open-minded enough to respect the folklore and practice the customs. To my surprise, Ayahuasca is the most intelligent entity I’ve ever interacted with, and my experiences with her were profound.

As strange as it might seem, I traveled to different dimensions and engaged with beings that reside there.

With each ceremony, I had an intention. During the first ceremony, I aimed to clarify my business path. Beyond working at my ad agency, I was the co-founder of a startup that was stuck at a standstill. Was this a fear I needed to overcome, or an intuition that the startup wasn’t right for me?

Ayahuasca introduced me to realms I was previously unaware of, and taught me that I needed to let go of the business I helped start. She showed me that I needed to act on my lifelong desire to write a book, which I've now completed. It takes you through my Ayahuasca experience in full detail.

With my ego questioning whether the decision to let go of the startup and focus on writing was of sound financial mind, I entered the second ceremony intending to rid my doubt and solidify my path. In return, the Ayahuasca took me down a long and difficult road that tested my patience and involved a great deal of purging. For those unfamiliar with this literal term, it meant I also needed a purge bucket.

The bulk of the six-hour experience was dark and exhausting, but after learning that I need to follow my passions, a sun began beaming light through thick trees just as I dozed off to sleep.

On the final night, my intention was one of expressing gratitude to the Ayahuasca, the shamans, my friends, and the universe as a whole. In exchange, I tapped into cosmic wisdom and saw the interconnectedness and love in all things. Ayahuasca deepened my bond with nature, purged my fears and connected me with a higher power.

I left Peru with an undeniable clarity, peace and the resolve to pursue my passions. I internalized the notion that nothing is impossible, that reality is malleable, and that I should work to make the biggest positive impact on our world that I possibly can. Beyond the book, I’ve become a partner in a renewable energy startup whose mission is to evolve humanity onto clean energy and heal our planet — something I couldn’t be more excited about.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone visit the jungle to drink Ayahuasca. The medicine isn’t for everybody, and each person’s path is different. What I am suggesting is that if you allow yourself to know and follow your passions, you will improve our world and be well on your way to enlightenment.

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