Doing the Work

Readers were riveted by Olivia LaVecchia's cover story about ayahuasca (“Vine of the Dead,” Nov. 22), as well as Katie Bain's first-person essay about what it's like to try the psychoactive brew (“Dark Chocolate and Bile“). Many wrote in to share their experiences.

SuperStarre writes, “The simplest way to describe the effect of participating in an ayahuasca journey is that it allows you to pull back from your ego and see things for what they are in your life. … It will not enlighten you, no more than meditating or listening to some guru talk about enlightenment will. It just gives you the opportunity to see more clearly and make different choices. I have participated in 16 ceremonies and each one was similar in the experience but completely different in the effect it had on my life. Sometimes it scared the crap out of me; other times I was laughing and crying at the same time because I realized how perfect everything is.”

ComicSister writes, “I am an experienced journeyer at this point. If there's one thing I've learned, and that I find increasingly fascinating, it is this: For each individual, and in each ceremony, the experience is unique. The human being is really something.

“Also, I would say that ayahuasca is profoundly loving. My personal theory (at this point) is that ayahuasca helps us communicate with our higher selves, and that aspect of self that wants for us to be happy and healthy. Even though Mama Aya can dish out some serious tough love, there's no doubt in my mind that she has your best interest at heart. I've never seen that to not be the case, and at this point I've seen a lot.”

Finally, we heard from Dolphinology, who warns, “The ayahuasca experience led to psychosis and thoughts of suicide for me, months after the journey. The trip lasted over a year: The first six months were filled with terrifying visions, when I didn't sleep for more than an hour a night, flashbacks and time distortions, and two trips to the emergency room. I had no history of psychiatric challenge or addictions. Guru Singh, who is a genius, gave me great comfort, saying something like, 'Nerves take a long time to grow back. You were thrown into the karmic field of all kinds of lives and opened to who knows what, including between-life spirits having fun with your energy.' The overall lesson is that we are a story-generating machine.”

The Trouble With Ron Calderon

Joseph Tsidulko's story about state Sen. Ron Calderon also generated lots of feedback (“Ron Calderon's Strange Flameout,” Nov. 22). David Tulanian writes, “Tsidulko wrote that Calderon 'suggests that all officials, if caught on tape, would come off bad.' I see Calderon forgot to include Senate staffers — as his own spokesman, Mario Beltran, has behaved badly at least twice, as Tsidulko eloquently observed. It is mind-boggling to realize that there are honest, hardworking young people who want a government career, yet Calderon passes them up for Beltran. Is he nuts?”

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