from the MARCH 2013 “HEALTH” issue
I woke up to a knock on my hotel-room door, and then met Bradley, my roommate for the next 3 weeks at a jungle camp in Peru where I would be drinking ayahuasca with 8 other patients. Right away, he began to tell me way too much information.
He told me he has always been receptive to spirits, that he has seen and been possessed by demons, that he was bipolar, depressed, and had suffered many different addictions: drugs, steroids, body building, sex, tattoos, gambling, etc. That’s quite a load to take in over a fruit salad. When I would listen to Bradley’s stories and look him in the eye, his pupils would grow in size to take up half of his iris, and his words would begin to race at 100 miles per hour. I looked into his eyes and just saw darkness. He was completely gone. Even though he was talking to me, I could tell he was no longer really there.
Needless to say, I really started to fear this guy. But, not only fear, I actually despised him. The way he would talk about seeing spirits, and having demons lock him in his apartment and throw him against walls, was so full of ego. It seemed like he was trying to impress everyone right away by seeming so fantastic for seeing evil spirits, yet, at the same time, he projected an image of himself that begged for pity and attention, neither of which I cared to provide for him. I wondered why everyone else in the group gave him the pity and attention he was trying entirely too hard to get and hold on to.
These feelings of disgust and fear only grew over the next five days. His stories were no longer matching up. He would tell me about really horrible car accidents that he survived, and go very deep into detail about the events following the accident, but when he told the story again to the group, huge chunks of details would be different. I thought he must also be a chronic liar. I had met people kind of like him in the past, but no one I ever met scared me as much as Bradley. He was the kind of guy that made me hide my knife whenever I didn’t have it directly on me. Sleeping next to him wasn’t the most comforting idea.
I must admit, I was tremendously worried that the ayahuasca we were both about to drink would trigger an even worse episode in his mental health and he’d snap and choose the closest person to him to cause harm to. However, what ended up happening very early on in the retreat was something that I could never have dreamed of happening in a thousand years, and surely won’t ever forget for the rest of my life…
During the second ayahuasca ceremony, I was experiencing a really intense healing. I was exploring the parts of my soul and psyche that had been damaged and saddened by all the suffering caused by being physically ill for the past five years. I was experiencing all the pain and anguish that I kept under a mask just to seem okay enough to function in the normal world with normal people. All the sadness that I would push aside in the morning just to go to school, or go to work, or do anything, really, was at the forefront of my attention, and I sat with it in complete darkness that night.
Then, from out of the darkness, I hear Bradley ask Carlos, founder of the Ayahuasca Foundation, for help. Carlos approached him and asked him what was wrong.
“I’m really scared, Carlos. It’s really dark where I am, and I sense demons and evil spirits. I don’t know what to do… I’m afraid.”
Bradley’s voice, here, was very different. I noticed his sense of ego was obliterated, and completely taken out of his person. What I was hearing was Bradley’s true voice, and with that true voice speaking so closely from his heart, I was able to sense that he was just a kid, like me. A kid who was very seriously ill, and I would never be able to fully understand or comprehend the magnitude of his illness, or how it had affected him all his life, and caused him to form an arrogant, ego-driven personality just to be able to cope with hating himself. I began to empathize deeply with him. I realized he and I are so much one in the same. We were both there for the same reason: to be cured from illnesses that plagued us and made us into sad persons. And, to put those illnesses behind you is no easy task; you really do need all the love and support you can get when you are going through such a healing.
Realizing this, I felt so terrible for so quickly judging Bradley, and thinking he might murder me in my sleep. I had all these awful sensations whenever I was around him, which undoubtedly affected his own personal self-esteem, and obviously caused him awful emotional pain. But, being used to it, to him I was “just another person” who didn’t like him. How awful of me to be the one person at the camp who actually hated this fragile, soft, lost child of humanity.
In that moment, hearing Bradley’s true voice, and seeing how connected he and I really are, my fear, my judgement, and my hatred for Bradley melted away. I cast those old feelings out, and vowed that from that moment on I would no longer hate Bradley. From that moment on, I would love him, and do everything I possibly could to help my brother heal.
“Don’t worry, Bradley, I’m really good at what I do,” said Carlos, “and you will
be healed. What you can try right now is one of two things: you could elevate yourself and be with God, and be in God’s loving care, or you can stay in the darkness, and explore it further, and see what it really is that’s causing you pain.”
Bradley made the decision to stay with and further explore the darkness. He later mentioned to me in an interview that it was the turning-point for him regarding his mental health. He was finally able to let go of his fear and depression. The therapy he received that night was what he was looking for in psychiatric counseling and medication for the past seven years.
After the ceremony that night, I gave Bradley a tremendous hug and expressed to him that I love him and really hope he finds the healing he’s looking for.
The next morning, I woke up and saw Bradley at the breakfast table. We chatted about the ceremony that happened the night before, and I just had
to stop thinking in the middle of our conversation to take in, in complete awe, just how radically different
Bradley’s voice was, and how different
Bradley’s eyes were, and how different
his speech patterns were. His voice was the same as it was in the ceremony - soft and heartfelt, his eyes were relaxed and no longer dilated suddenly in the middle of conversation, his sentences kept a steady rhythm and communicated messages of hope for the future and living a healthy life. It had only been 12 hours since I decided to love Bradley, and already he was becoming the kind of down-to-earth, honest, intelligent, and friendly person who I could easily anchor my trust to and become close friends with.
Then, after breakfast, Bradley went into a state of panic. A severe itch covered his entire body, particularly his back. He was certain he had developed a rash, so he asked some of the group members to check his back out for him. There was no rash. There wasn’t even a bug-bite. There was absolutely nothing, and yet the amount of discomfort Bradley felt was obvious when you looked into his eyes. He was worried something had gone terribly wrong, so he was rushed to where some of the local community boys were preparing a vapor bath for the group. The boys sensed the urgency of the situation and were quickly darting around the area to get special remedies to help extract the spirit still living off of Bradley’s essence. Bradley was the first to take a vapor bath that day, and the rest of the group watched, deeply concerned for him. Bradley faced away from the group, with his back towards the hot, plant-water vapor coming from the pot, and his front facing the virgin jungle canopy. The vapor bath helped his itch a little, and he was finally able to calm down. Then I heard him sob.
“That’s weird… I kind of just cried without actually crying,” he said.
“Just let it out, man. Whatever this is causing you discomfort, let it out in anyway you can. If it means crying, then just cry. No one here will judge you for it. Just allow it to move through you,” said one of Carlos’ assistants.
Bradley began to weep somberly. Tears poured down his face for ten straight minutes while he had his vapor bath. During this time, he was so aware of all the pain he’d been though, caused by his mental illness and having this dark energy feeding off of him. The tears he shed that day were tears of sadness, but also tears of joy, because he knew the energy was now leaving him, and that manifested in him feeling the uncomfortable sensations leave through his pores, run out down his arms, and through his fingers. Then, Doña Vilma, the curandera who would lead the ceremonies, laid Bradley down and washed his back with plants that had been soaking in water, and that helped remove some of this bad energy as well.
Bradley said an exorcism was not far from the truth of what actually happened that day. When he asked the people running the camp if what had left his body was a demon, the response he received was that it didn’t matter what it was that left. It had lived inside him for so long, and had such a strong grip on his soul, that it took a lot of work to get it to finally let go, and it really didn’t want to let go. But the work that was necessary was now done, and Bradley no longer had to worry about it interrupting his life anymore and keep him from the things he’s always wanted to do, yet could never find the courage to fully commit to. From that moment on, Bradley was a changed man, never to return to his once addictive, narcissistic, negative, egotistical personality. Bradley was healed, and his healing was very much a part of mine.