When I (Caroline) look back to my years before 2010, I am aware of a marked difference in my attitude to the world and other people in general. It’s not that I didn’t have compassion; I was just more focused on my own life and feelings than I was in the years following it. A conversation I had this morning sparked off an interesting chain of thought that really rang true, and I felt it was worth sharing.
My friend Peter Black made some very valid points, many of which I have addressed in this article. He was saying that there is something missing from the teachings of most of the ‘enlightened gurus’ who have imparted their methods of finding inner peace. The omission is the focus on others. We are encouraged to master the self (and the Jungian shadow, for example) in order to place ourselves firmly on the path to the Holy Grail that is personal peace.
There is nothing wrong with the desire to feel peaceful, of course. It is only natural that we should prefer comfortable feelings to uncomfortable ones. Many teachers will rightly tell us that the duality in life (and especially in terms of feelings) is both natural and necessary. The ‘bad’ provides a field of context for the ‘good’ so that we can understand ‘good’, and the pain of life tends to shape us more effectively than comfort ever does. Yet once we have had a taste of contentment, it is like a drug. So we battle our way through pain, trying a myriad ways to transcend it.
To suppress your sadness is to suppress your love
We often don’t succeed in that, repressing some degree of it. Then later we might react to personal injustices with anger and sadness, much of which flows from the inner well of repressed emotion. Sadness and anger are both natural and powerfully motivating forces. When you shut down sadness you shut down love. They are two sides of the same coin. This is why ayahuasca unearths strong feelings of grief in so many people.
Some of us accept the teachings that pain is necessary and that we should not avoid or suppress it, but allow it to move through us. I can see the wisdom in that, challenging as it can be to actually implement at times. The thing is that this tenacious need to reside in the light, so to speak, is mostly a Western thing. In the modern west we have come to expect peace. Not everything is easy but we live relatively convenient lives compared to the times of world war, for example.
Peter made the point that valuable as these teachings are, they mostly encourage us to focus on ourselves. We are told that if we just meditate more, do a little more yoga or feel good pursuits, process our darkness and dedicate ourselves to our dreams Law of Attraction style, we will master this inner peace thing.
Environment, culture and circumstances largely dictate
We know we can’t totally avoid pain, but there seems to be a part of us that wants to get rid of it… and all the while there are so many people in the world who live within a default setting of pain and strife, due to their immediate environment or circumstances.
Not too many teachers address the fact that this is a lot easier for some people than for others. How many can you think of who are openly and regularly addressing the atrocities happening to certain humans in this world, and the damage that those in power are doing to the environment? There is no one guru with all the answers, and like the rest of us, those teachers may not possess conclusive solutions – but if they were to encourage all of us to focus on attaining peace for all instead of personal peace, the chances of wise solutions springing forth from the collective conscious would probably be higher.
If you had been born in Palestine or Syria over the last few years, what would your chances of inner peace really look like? You could argue that it is the spiritual path of those beings to experience war and trauma, and nobody could definitively correct you. Yet it is arguably true that those people aren’t in the position to take up many of the recommendations made by our teachers of enlightenment.
Altruism doesn’t always come from compassion
Generally speaking, if you were born in the West, your chances of reaching inner peace are going to be higher. You may have been through your own traumas and they are all relative and valid. They can also evoke empathy, but unless you grew up in some kind of open-hearted community with ecological values, you probably weren’t encouraged to focus overly on other people’s happiness or the state of the Earth.
It could also be argued that the desire for personal peace is a result of Western conditioning. A kind of induced selfishness, if you will. When you ask the question, “What would love do?” you might conclude that love would be concerned with the peace and happiness of all.
I am well aware that there are many, many people doing positive things in the world with the benefit of others in mind. I am incredibly grateful for this. However it seems that sometimes this stems from the feeling that this is what ‘should’ be done (i.e forced altruism for the purposes of self-esteem), rather than from the wellspring of innate compassion. It’s still better than nothing, of course, and I don’t mind admitting that pre-2010, that was my a large part of my motivation too.
Ayahuasca and DMT can trigger innate and dormant compassion
If compassion was cultivated from a young age, things might be different. If for you it wasn’t and doesn’t come easily, perhaps that’s where ayahuasca and DMT can assist. It would be easy to say that in order to help others you must first help yourself, and it is probably true that an unhappy person can’t guide anyone else to happiness. However if the focus is only ever on reaching personal happiness, not much will change on the whole.
I’m not suggesting that we all go out and protest against wars, or any of the other activist-type endeavours. Yes, there’s a place for those, and I have been that person myself - before I realised that fighting the machine with anger wasn’t getting me too far. Since my first cup of ayahuasca, I’ve gradually moved down the path of seed sowing and offsetting energies, but that is another story. My intention is the same: the good of all. This is not a virtue signalling exercise, I might add – I’m just aiming for food for thought.
I don’t doubt for a moment that ayahuasca triggered my innate compassion. As a result my life and behaviour changed for the better, and consequently (in some way) so did the lives of others I have come into contact with - or so I am sometimes told. That first ceremony, I didn’t even know what happened. After I purged, I went to lie down and for all intents and purposes, I just disappeared. I remember nothing at all; not even a dream. I thought that not much had happened. As a newbie to the medicine, I hadn’t realised that she was just easing me in.
Two weeks later, I sat on my sofa and put on one of the songs that the shaman (Fabian Piorkowsky) had given me after the ceremony: the beautiful Gayatri Mantra. Suddenly, a well of emotion sprang up in me. I burst into tears and I didn’t stop crying for two hours. I could feel the pain of the Earth; the weight of everything that had been done to her and the sadness she felt. Whether that sense was an illusion or not – and whether the whole of reality is illusion (Maya) or not – I had definitely rediscovered a sense of connection to the all.
Suddenly, I really, really cared about what was happening to the Earth and all of humanity. I can’t begin to describe the sorrow I felt that day. I was swimming in pain at the injustice of it all, feeling a righteous anger that pseudo-spirituality/spiritual bypassing would have had me ‘omming’ my way out of. I didn’t buy that then and I don’t now.
True compassion can not be shut down
My personal peace comes and goes. I could not stop caring about the environment and total strangers if my life depended on it. This has often impacted my personal peace and I have spent periods of time feeling sad and helpless. Yet I am totally grateful that this compassion is alive in me, despite the fact that it feels like a double-edged sword at times.
I know that many people possess this compassion naturally. But on the whole there is a disconnect – compassion is more a concept or an aim than a state of being. I am pretty sure that genuine love means truly caring about one and all. For me, it was ayahuasca and DMT that showed me (and I am far from alone in this) that we are all connected.
Not one person is more special than or superior to another, regardless of awareness levels. I moved beyond conceptualisation. I feel it. My empathy is strong and my motivation to do my bit for the good of all cannot be shaken off.
Meet the medicine with pure intention and an open heart
This is not about me. I just know that even if I slip into selfishness or get it wrong from time to time, I can’t sustain any other way of living and expect personal peace to prevail. It doesn’t. Your peace is my peace, and hopefully vice versa. I know that personally, I have ayahuasca to thank for this.
The ayahuasca and DMT movement continues to grow, and although I accept that it is a not a one-size-fits all solution (certainly with variables and risks), it seems to me that many, many people are changing for the better; consciousness is growing because of it.
If you come to ayahuasca with an open heart and a genuine desire to grow, there is a good chance you will get it. Just be prepared for the double-edged sword of compassion and know that the inevitable pain it brings just means you’re connected to those who need your love the most. What you do about it is up to you.
Lastly, if you have had a similar experience with ayahuasca or DMT, feel free to share it with us via our experiences pages. We’ll publish it as an article you can share around, and help us spread the word!