Taking Ayahuasca, the wisdom mother medicine was quite a shock. That is, I never expected the result it would bring to my life.

Called Dieta, nine of us entered the 9 day retreat with the serious intention of healing our minds through knowledge by dieting intensively on wisdom plants and much less so on normal food including up to twenty hours without food at all, and then a small plate of simple steamed vegetables. The diet also precluded:

pork, red meats, spices, sugar, garlic, onion, ginger, yellow cheeses, dairy, lentils, legumes, caffeine, alcohol, fermented foods, pastas, breads, and as if that wasn’t enough, no soap, no toothpaste, no touching, no talking!  That is none of all the good things that we all feast on. How much more interesting could it get! Aside from the four nights of temple/tent ritual, we were to remain alone in our own secluded tent area the entire time.


Having wandered the planet for more than 26,500 days now, it seemed giving up nine days of the usual sensations we ride in life was not such a big call.  That is, why not do something I didn’t really want to do? Why answer our daily cravings so swiftly every second of our apparent existence?  For a change, why not do the ordinary life in a non-ordinary way?

Moreover, more importantly following a very healthy brush with death not so long ago, I was rigorously interested in how this mind would handle that ‘famous day’ (death) when it did arrive.  Would the good, bad or unfamiliar hallucinations accompanying death distract me from being aware? Would I get lost in the ephemeral dance and drift off into

lands stranger than the earth land, the one I already felt an outsider in?

Could I master unexpected illusions without attachment?  With the past 30 years spent studying mind and its capacity, why would I not investigate this unpredictable experience deemed by governments to be unlawful?

There was no other Way like this Way.

So alone I went. I also went with my car so that I could escape if needs be. All tucked discreetly in behind a busy little country town making its landed-gentry living through collectables and antiques, a dabbling of good cafes and a decent country pub, early one afternoon I turned up on the modest, lush property sent from heaven. There dappled willows delicately caressed the surface of three or four small ponds, between which tiny water turtles occasionally strolled, good sized red bellied black snakes basked on sun-warm chunky boulders, great stands of black bamboo reached for the sky, where a post modern 60’s home greeted me, and where a spot of tents were dotted strategically away from each other across the place, but all within easy distance of a very big yurt, this revered temple where the evenings sacred ceremonies would occur.  Inside the yurt’s circular walls, large cushions strategically padded against the wall, each one complete with a name tag, a rolled up Peruvian pure woollen blanket and a small plastic bucket.

As subtly placed candles lent a soft intimate glow, that’s where on the first evening we gathered.  Firstly for the facilitator to explain exactly what plants we were taking and the medicinal properties of each.  The main one, Ayahuasca bought powerful vision and wisdom, others healed muscular and nervous diseases, others mental disorders, others cancer and others, specific illnesses he said, describing their full botanical names and capabilities, all the while, in Spanish, paying respect and doing prayers of thanks directly to the brewed plant concoction, his teacher and the guardians.

Then in turn we shared our main intention for doing the dieta.  Of course for me there were the usual suspects: heal my cancers, find a naughty raconteur with enough quids for us not to have to worry unduly, to knuckle down to the writing of the next great Australian novel and (it goes without saying) the attainment of enlightenment via the rainbow body technique! Others had very powerful intentions too. One, a 30ish year old man, a real estate rental agent I think, wanted to understand his constant fear of catastrophic events he imagined coming his way.  Another, a practising psychologist, ready to use the insights gained to help repair clients’ minds in his clinic.  Another, a well educated, wealthy man was pursuing how to bring the knowledge to bear in his elevated, very high profile work place.  There was no doubt everyone there were there for important reasons.

I said I didn’t really have an intention, and then waxed lyrical about the usual benefiting all sentient beings and so forth.   Afterwards that seemed like a pretty weak response and a bit ill prepared, yet now I’m glad because it let the plants and their wisdom do the guiding without any expectation imposing its will.  It meant I could listen and watch, unimpeded by good or bad or any other emotion of the senses.

And you know as a professional fisherman in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the late 1970s, I had wrestled crocodiles, sharks, cyclones and men, yet walking back to my nicely cosy tent with its small fireplace, fresh sheets and soft, rolled up Peruvian rugs, right then I drank in the rain forest as it swayed and swhooshed its thanks for the days of rain, as the innumerable cicadas murmured in that hypnotic swaying rhythm, all of it an opera of wave resonance, all of it minding its own business, humming the tune of forest.  I’m not unhappy but for sure it’s been a strange life. One I wouldn’t wish on anyone, one steeped in loneliness and longing, and too much solitude.  So the idea of dispelling old stories by throwing up and out the physicalness of deeply intense past events, even to the point where the actual emotions of the event’s internal smouldering remembrance had germinated into solid existence made plenty of sense to me.

That a plant(s) could have their own wisdom which when ingested would take me more deeply into such inner obstacles and expel them so as to clear my personal pathway for proper healing, for better things, for understanding, for clearer outcomes, for the creative life I had already dreamed even envisaged, was important.  That plants born specifically to assist in such a purpose could be prepared and consumed to bring vision and knowledge was most captivating; plants that have lived in harmonious circumstances for thousands of years in the jungles of Peru, and no doubt other yet to be discovered places with wisdom coursing through the essence of the bark or root or cacti or vine was for me quite profound. Ayahuasca: The Vine of the Undead. Further, that ancient men and women dedicated to The Way had tested and trained themselves in the preparation, dosage, understanding and administering of each individual strain of plant essence; men and women beyond the usual, by listening and learning had experienced what these plants taught them.  These were mother wisdom plants serving humanity, capable of healing, strengthening, purifying, and displaying pictorially the reason for holding on to the specific moments to which I had clung – moments which had become blind spots in my every day ordinariness.

There we all were in the privacy of the candle lit yurt clutching our throw-up buckets ready for the explosive exodus of sickness’s festering cause to bubble up and out. How extraordinary!  Ah yes, and there they were, those amazing essences dancing across my internal vision displaying audacious vivid light shows and Disneyland realms in which to wander. Candles out now, as the sacred Mother Medicine coursed through my body. In vision I saw a dashing river swilling through the stagnant backwaters, filtering the swamps and rejuvenating the wetlands of my body, flushing out and revealing illnesses, those long held stories of emotion deeply entwined as everglade roots weaving around my organs.Immediately realising that this was hallowed, that I was fortunate, I surrendered,  bowed my head and prayed to Her, asking that She reveal all. She the Vine of the Undead and I, we foraged around the trunk of life, hunting out events hidden in the swamp of me, there in pools of fluid stuck in backwaters, laying stagnant waiting to be found and swept away. With the hours that passed, many images of my history, true situations revealed themselves, then finally the bubbling up and out, the retching from deep deep inside as the tales of old reluctantly relinquished their tenacious hold, a volcano of mucus spewing out.

To think this successful method of healing illness worked by ingesting a hallucinogenic which made us shiver, quake, fart, burp and then throw up a slushy chunder to remove the illness bodily: dis-ease to dispel disease!  So there was truth in what the Buddhists said: first the thought, then the intention then the action, that illnesses are initially thought projections, therefore dispel the thought, dispel the sickness. Above, through the roof’s circular aperture, the brilliant full moon cast its own shadow onto the timber floor, there for all of us to see. As the time slipped by, like the blackboard of the universe, She Moon weaved her shifting shadow reflecting the earth’s own revolving journey from one horizon to the other. Bathed in the hint of light, I gazed as the astonishing silver orb slowly waltzed across our dimension, and realised She was generously giving us teachings on dark and light, female male, yin and yang, birth and death, of cyclic existence and the myriad of 10,001 things. All of this under the galaxies of which we are but one tiny world.

By 11 the next morning, following nothing to eat since the day before’s noontime lunch, my tummy rumbled as the painfully plain diet of all-steamed potato, cabbage, carrot, sweet potato, green beans, slices of cucumber and white rice was delivered to my tent; the exact same meal to follow for all breakfasts and lunches.  And water, lots of water. A diet designed to purge the system, to be kind to the digestion so it could easily ripen, rot and remove not only food but from the energetic angle ripen, rot and remove unhealthy emotions.  A diet of non distraction, a recipe designed to lighten the body and bring lucidity to the vision. Along with the salubrious breakfast came an additional plant concoction brewed especially for each person’s different circumstance.  In my case cancer, in my case Tumba Chu Chu Husha, a reddish-orange bark from a tree of golden roots and leaves of light only found deep in the oozy mud of distant thick jungle, found only by one who knew what they were seeking; a mother medicine plant which when picked had died to wend into my very DNA, giving its life for the taker’s healing.

She-plant who died that I might heal,

your sap my sap now.

Me now, carrying you on,

your torso mine.

Kind roots unpeeling, tender arms branching,

Newly light leafs aflutter, twiglings twigging

All murmuring ‘hola’.

Then to relax, relax without any devices of the world wide wicked web or book or toy or newspaper or other distraction, just the reliable pitter-patter of soft rain, that miraculous see through liquid which like some fairy tale story really does fall from the sky; nectar of the gods, the elixir of life, the essential fluid of which we humans are mostly made up. Drizzle, trickle blatt, splat, titter and splot, gather and puddle, pool and soak, wend and creek, nor raincoat or boat, nook and brook, cranny and babble into earth’s willing crests and folds to the vast basin of ocean ye goes, I crooned  “Oh soothing song singer upon my tent now, caress, cool and calm this maddened earth, wash away our woes and grow us up’.

Rest now, I thought, do nothing but be, leave the mind alone and simply allow. Be. Just be.

Emerging from self solitude every afternoon, an hour’s Shaolin Lineage chi gong, with every movement having a precise connection to inner body vitality, that followed by an hour’s meditation of one’s own variety, further stilling and emptying the restless mind. Dreaming is not about laying down to sleep, it is every second of our lives. Knowing all the seconds are ceaseless, that they rise and fall corresponding to your karma, to your situation and knowledge. Make your situation one of awareness and your dreaming will be similar, quite handy and less tense.

As of The Plant People, firstly look around you. Who goes without plant or water? All of us are plant people. From the beginnings we were plant people.  It was from plants that we ate and stayed alive, and from the ancient people, and their lineage holders today to whom the plants resonated, it was from the plants essence the healing arts were learned. The Call of the Plants, deep in the lacy forest amid fecund rich mud or humus-a-plenty or primeval ooze, these clever plants like the pure lotus from the bottom of the lake, grew and gave of their wisdom.

All we had to do was listen, learn and watch and we discovered medicine.  The plants showed us The Way, the sacred view of honouring knowledge not otherwise available. It was them who gave us a method of ‘seeing’, it was them who were our first guides into the extraordinary.

All of us are water babies. From the beginning water bathed us, calmed and cooled us, internally and out. It purified and flushed our organs and clarified and aided in our perception.  Water grew, moistened and refreshed the plants, assisting them to thrive and be available to man and womankind.  Ye brilliant water, so clear you can see thru it, yet somehow in some magical way it also reflects its surroundings – how is this so? All plants are sacred from the tallest tree to the scrubbiest scrub, from the reed to the herb, from the prolific potato to the rarest of fruits, to the so called ‘weeds’, those plants whose qualities we have yet to fully grasp. All have healing properties for certain specific ailments, for health and growth, for mind opening and for pleasure too.

Gladly I wandered within, and prayed a lot ….’Help heal me oh extraordinary plant beings, heal my mind and raise me up, raise me into activity for knowledge, that quest man and womankind is born for.  Fill my body with light and let it shine through the skin pores to illuminate The Way for self and others.’ How uninteresting life would be without regrets.  So here for the first time I took some stock. Even after some seventy odd years, I feel artless, that there are some things I had never really recovered from, or ever understood, realising I still hadn’t found my home hence never settling and always on the run, the way I’ve become a loner.  How the damage done in the years of a bad relationship sent me fleeing, and the tough, almost masculine solitary life, enduring through the years, like a fluke who had slipped between the cracks of the 60s and into the contemporary computer era. Yet since the illuminating opportunity of near death, something has started to change, some forgiveness of self, that finally life might begin to soften my way. They say that each person you meet is like a kind of reunion, and I know that love is a dream too, still without a mate now for 20 or so years, how does one live continually without the warm blooded expression of lover love? To have my hand held by another for say 10 minutes without either letting go, or to lay and be held for say one entire night, a secret romantic gesture across a room, a whispered confession of intimate devotion. Where to go to from such understanding? In the end, in essence, only to that ethereal utterance named compassion. Pondered such things I did amongst the lush wooded landscape. There above the satin smooth fishpond where gossamer dragon flies darted forth like sky walkers, gladden that the 150 million year old group of beings let me be as they flirted with the water fountain’s crystal droplets, droplets which from the sun’s rays shimmered the entire spectrum of color, knowing that the earth was brewing away thru the recurring minutes and seasons and centuries and climates and eons  … and oh the wonder, the wonder.

Recalling Tibetan Teacher, Namki Norbu Rinpoche’s statement, “Only your state communicates with you”, it wasn’t difficult to let the machinations of the world go, to leave it to itself. There was nothing to do there, rather be in the realms of inner seeing and greet those on The Way, all of it a vivid figment of mind.  Withdrawing from the ordinary life secretly, that is being in it but not of it, therein lay harmony continually manifesting and worthy of attention. ‘Everything is momentary right before our very eyes the display of the ceaseless rising and falling of scenes, the panorama of cyclic death to birth to death to birth.”  To remain ‘present’ in the sounds and colours and tastes and smells of ‘you’, there lay the lightness and ease of movement.  Nothing is an extension of you. Everything you perceive in every second is you, all of it simply a momentary illusion.  Don’t be distracted by the clunkiness of sensation or notion. That statement ‘trust to The Way’ means remaining aware of the vision you are in, nice or otherwise, dying or living, good or bad, happy or sad, just be aware of it. Trust yourself means to listen clearly to what your awareness is saying or showing you.  Look in the mirror – which is true? Are you the reflection or is the reflection true? When you leave the mirror, where does the reflection go? That underlying the dizzying centuries of war and famine and weather, and environmental devastation and thoughtless pollution and unnerving politics, just like primordial nature universal teachings go on unperturbed. Carried by word of mouth, in song or poem or pen or memory, these truths do not die. That which has not been invented, but is a universal knowing will always be.

On the final night, medicino Ayahuasca showed me childhood truths, of being compromised by several older men as a young woman; of being held like a baby in my darling mum’s arms; then women gathered, they bathed and oiled me, honouring how I had managed this life “You have grace now Robyn, you have grace’ they said.  I saw healing occur on my lower dan tien, and watched as the entire left side of my body merged, and rejoined with my right side just like a zipper, and finally being surrounded by uncountable beings all walking The same Way, and felt my heart just blast wide open sending the very essence of nature out into the unexplainable, ineffable, limitless universe…yes, this is what I experienced.

After, in the dark, early morning hours, all of us laid flat out below the clear cut diamond splattered sky, feeling its infinity, as blessings from enlightened ones rained down upon us like a tropical storm. Here was a community of worthy people investigating themselves with or without fear, humans who accepted a quirky old woman like me with honest ease. And here, two teachers with the utmost integrity, both holding the universe and its beauty as a way of life.

The next morning in circle, each of us puffed the sacred tobacco pipe sending our dreams and thanks on the spiralling smoke out into the cosmos.  It was time to enter the evolving realm, to keep tuned into the dream, but now I was and am more calm, more grounded. With some clarity. Walking alongside nature instead of passed it. Having patience now instead of practising having it. So much has changed, yet everything is the same, it’s just that I don’t have a view on everything any more and my view of it all is relaxed now.

The ‘no nothing’ diet continued for another 30 days.  Surprisingly that wasn’t a struggle. Everything unusual in the world now, especially what I learned from ‘the no touching’. Negotiating every person, making space around me, noting how much we use touch like unspoken words, seeing hand gestures like strokes of a brush, the internal quivering impact of a hand shake. Feeling awareness not thinking it. Revering all of my masters, including the Plant ancients in every day. Celebrating with the nature of nature, talking with the trees and flowers and weather, then listening back.  Eating less of more simple foods, enjoying the blandness.

Wondering without hope or fear what next will become of me.