How to ride out a spiritual emergency

In 2017, I travelled to the Amazon jungle to take part in an ayahuasca retreat. I hadn’t done psychedelics for 20 years, and that last time I’d had a bad trip which had left me traumatised. Why would I ever want to try psychedelics again? Although I’d healed a lot from that youthful bad experience, I still felt I had healing to do at a deeper level.

And I thought that psychedelic therapy, guided by trained facilitators in a safe space, might help me. I chose the retreat centre very carefully, and set off. The retreat was a positive, if sometimes scary experience. By the final day I felt my heart was deeply open and connected to the other participants.

It was when I was back in Iquitos, this noisy, dirty city in Peru, that things started to go wrong. It felt as if my heart froze shut. I was suddenly profoundly disconnected from my surroundings and from other people, to the extent that they seemed unreal.

Now all the trauma from my bad trip of 20 years before was flooding back – not on the retreat, as I expected, but after it. I hadn’t expected that at all. It was scary. How long would the disorientation last? Days? Weeks? Years? Forever?

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