I died and passed over: My Ayahuasca Experience

First of all, I would like to answer a few background questions.

Feel free to skip these and scroll down to “My Ayahuasca Experience” if you just want a detailed account of what happened to me.

Did you actually die?

Yes, I did.

The dictionary calls death the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism. By dictionary, I did not die. But I did lose total functioning of my brain, minus my brain stem, that is only in control of my heartbeat and my breathing.

Since I lose total brain functioning minus my brainstem, and entered a realm that lies beyond ego death, I consider myself to have died.

Whether or not you want to agree with me, is up to you. I’m not here to convince you of anything. I’m just here to tell you my story.

What is Ego Death?

Ego death is a well documented state of being. It is when you lose your sense of self: and I mean all parts of yourself. Your body, your five senses, your memories, your voice, your ability to think and speak and understand words, your sense of time, your ability to see and understand the world…everything you are. And yes, you are also the ground you walk on, and the sky above. Without your ego, there is no seeing the planet.

Ego death happens when you take a huge dose of hallucinogenics. For most, this dose has to be big enough to be dangerous. I drank two 300ml glasses of strong, potent Ayahuasca at once, freshly harvested from the jungle surrounding the Marañón River.

Before you shout and tell me you’ve drank more, please understand I am a tiny skinny girl. I am 5’3, weigh 102 pounds, a mere 46kg. I’m also missing some organs: I only have 1 kidney, and I also have no gallbladder.

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Tiny innocent me trimming the Ayahuasca vine, having no idea what I signed up for. I couldn’t even help smash it, I’m that weak! I’m thinking I need to start lifting weights.

You’re probably wondering why the shamans allowed me to have such a big dose. I told them that I had no health problems. I hid the fact that I’m missing organs in my body, I hid the fact that I’m hypersensitive to whatever goes into my body.

Of course, I knew logically, I should’ve had a small dose. But all my life, I’ve been engaged in reckless behavior. This is because all my life, I’ve been suffering intense suicidal ideation that hit me many times a day, no matter where I was. On my plane ride to Peru to drink Ayahuasca, I was wishing I could jump out of the plane through the emergency exit.

When you walk life with a desire to die, you become numb. You are an epitome of apathy, and you no longer care what happens to you. So drinking a dangerous dose of the most powerful entheogenic in the world in a foreign country deep in the jungle as a tiny helpless girl is not a daunting task at all.

Needless to say, I truly had no idea what I was in for. They say nothing can prepare you for your first Ayahuasca trip, and this is may be the truest sentence in existence. Of course, I read stories about other peoples’ experiences. I thought I knew what I was in for, but I didn’t actually have any idea. There is no way to conceive of the experience in our mind. I repeat, if you’ve never drank Ayahuasca, there is no way to know what it’s like. You could study Ayahuasca experiences for fifty years, you could meditate for another eighty, there is absolutely no way to know what you just signed up for.

The only preparations you can do is making diet adjustments, staying away from alcohol and other drugs, and do yoga and meditation to help with your anxiety, and soothing your anxiety may make the experience 0.00001% smoother. This is the only power you have to prepare for your experience. You are completely powerless otherwise.

What I expected was what I read. I figured I would go to other realms and meet entities, which may heal me from my suicidal ideation. I figured if I had a bad trip, it would just be like a nightmare, and I would recover quickly.

This was no nightmare. This was an actual-death experience.

Do we have souls?

The answer is yes.

Ayahuasca is not like dreaming. It is not like hallucinating. It is a literal out of body experience. She actually kicks your soul out of your body. And if you retain your sense of self or not, that all depends on how big of a dose you took, and on what she needs to show you, and I took one gigantic dose, and she decided to kill me.

I highlighted the word soul because prior to Ayahuasca, I didn’t know we had souls. I grew up as an atheist and converted to spiritual agnosticism after studying Buddhism. So while I wouldn’t exactly dispute the ideas of us having souls, I also didn’t really believe in it. It never made sense to me how we could exist outside of our bodies.

We all have this idea of our souls being like ethereal versions of ourselves: it’s not like this at all. Our souls, once fully integrated outside of our bodies, have no sense of self attached to them. Our souls have NO memories, NO bodies, NO sense of self, NO form, NO ego, NO senses, NO emotions, NO thought. Yet they somehow exist. We each have one.

A metaphor I got for this is: imagine our souls like air. No consciousness at all, no body, no nothing. Our soul inhabits a body, and after we die, our souls return to being air.

You would think it would be like complete nothingness, like an atheist point of view, but its not like this at all. Death is merely a transformation, from form into no form, so there is no true nothingness, no true death, there is merely transformation.

And it is like a Christian point of view, in the way our souls leave our body, and go to another place. Whether this place is heaven or hell, it doesn’t really matter, because you’re going to lose your concept of words and your ability to identify what you’re experiencing. All of that comes from our ego- our physical brain construct- and after we die, we don’t get to take this with us. Yes, that includes our memories.

It would be nice to bring memories with us after we die, but where we are going, there is no way we can conceive of memories. We completely transform. The only thing I can compare it to is like transforming into a galaxy. We are entirely formless, vast, and we exist as an infinite amount of dimensions. But we have no way to know if we are a galaxy or not, we lose the ability to know anything. I figured I would at least retain knowledge of space- but even space as we know it is just a reflection of ourselves.

Space and Earth as you know it doesn’t exist after you die. Every piece of knowledge you acquire in life, every memory you gain, every emotion you feel, every person you meet, and everything you touch and see, is all just yourself.

Nothing is separate from you, and when you die, you’re going to lose all of it.

This is scary to think about now that I’ve returned to my body. Honestly, my transformation was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced, because I was not ready to die. But once I had accepted my death, and completely transformed and traveled to the “other side”, I no longer had emotions. No more fear, no more suffering. My soul was just existing as infinite dimensions.

This is good news. This means you can relax into your being.

Death is nothing to fear.

My Ayahuasca Experience

“Please, take me back to my BODY!”

These words still haunt me. They are the sounds of my own voice- but with more desperation and agony I have ever heard. Not only that, I couldn’t even pronounce the word “body”. My words were falling away from me. Everything was just falling away, as my entire being was ripped out of me.

It did not completely start out like this. At first, it was beautiful.

I had my first drink, and the girl beside me started to sing and sweat. She seemed like she was in heaven, but I felt absolutely nothing, except for a bit of nausea when I lied down. So I stayed upright in a meditative posture.

The shamans were singing beautiful songs- called icaros. It is said the spirit of Ayahuasca teach them how to sing these songs, and I have no doubt that this is true. They are tunes so spiritual and healing, they can only come from a different realm.

I focused on one soft icaro in particular. I massaged my shoulders while I listened. I imagined the pain being ripped out from my spine as I massaged my back, and wondered if this could be what the plant was telling me to do.

But still, I didn’t feel much of anything.

My shaman asked me if I wanted a second dose. I, being the fool I was, said yes.

After drinking a second dose, I left the space to pee in the jungle. On my way back, I felt lightheaded and drunk. I thought to myself that this was nothing, since I was used to drinking alcohol, I must’ve built up a tolerance. I remember gazing at the stars before I went back to the ceremony. I sat back down in a meditative posture, and that is when I saw my first fractal. But I could barely see it, because I had left my body.

The feeling of leaving your body so quickly is just…I have no words to describe this. The atmosphere changed, everything changed, I was in a different realm. And it was no hallucination, no alternation in reality. I was literally in another dimension, that was so different from the one I’m used to, and I knew instantly that I have a soul. I was able to feel the very core of my soul, without my body. There is surely no way that death is just nothingness, that we do not have souls. We have souls.

I was transported to another world, full of radiant colors. I remember saying “I’m so happy, thank you, thank you!” even though I couldn’t really pronounce these words right. It was like “ZANK YOU”, “I’M ZAPPY!”.

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Artwork by Mugwort. A depiction of the world I entered. Here, my sense of self, my body and my soul, dissipated into beautiful radiant colors, and I became a state of everything.

I said “You’re beautiful.” to all these beautiful, colorful, fractal entities. I created some sort of celestial body, I rolled around in all these colors, feeling what may have been my water bottle, or my purging bucket, but I’m not sure.

I had experienced a completely lightness- I was happy at first to be out of my body. No more back pain, and I was happy to know I could just pee here- I didn’t even have to pee ever, or I could pee all I wanted. Yeah, I’m not too sure why I was thinking about that- I think needing to pee all the time is an important part of my body. I have one kidney!

Now that I’m writing this, I can tune into the fact that I had a lovely experience at first. It was fun, rolling around in this celestial realm, seeing just what I could do. I could also hear icaros, which made the experience even more beautiful and profound.

I assume this is what most people experience on Ayahuasca, and it is why they drink it many times in their life. The lightness of being outside of your body, playing with these gorgeous and friendly spirits, is gentle and healing indeed. But Aya is not known to be gentle. If you need healing , she is going to give it to you in the most brutal way possible, and that is exactly what she did to me.

I lost grasp of my body. I gained a full awareness that I was actually outside of my body, and I couldn’t go back to it. I needed help to get back to my body, so I shouted the name of my shaman. But it was like shouting into nothingness. I couldn’t even pronounce his name right. I was trying so hard to say his name, but failing. He didn’t come. I couldn’t hear his voice. I still heard icaros, but I stopped understanding into the fact they were coming from my reality. I lost full connection with my body and my world.

I said “I have a body, you know!” at the fractal spirits. Then I felt “them” slowly ripping into my ego. They completely disassembled my soul and my ego, and I realize that the fact I was still able to speak (even if it was incoherent) still meant I had a body. Words disintegrated from me….and that is when I was grieving and shouting in desperation.

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Artwork by Alex Grey. My soul was sucked into a tunnel by entities. I did not want to go into it. I resisted with every ounce of strength I could, but I had no choice but to let go.

“I’ve learned too much!” I cried, “I just want to go back to my body, please…”

Now in my life, I’ve experienced intense grief. That grief is part of the reason why I decided to drink Ayahuasca in the first place. But NOTHING compared to the grief of losing my body. This grief and sorrow I will remember for the rest of my life. I missed my back pain, my hair, my skin, and my world.

I felt it all of it just scatter into pieces, my soul completely separating to the point I could no longer touch a single piece. I stopped talking, as I no longer knew what words were. But each time a piece of my soul disappeared, I mourned it, and I tried everything I could to grasp it, but it all just fell away.

I had no choice but to accept my death.

It was an awful feeling, each piece of my ego fading into nothingness. I was sucked deeper and deeper into the spirit realm, except I was no longer a spirit, I was nothing. I clung onto whatever I had left- a memory of my partner, but I could no longer remember who he was or his name. My world- I tried to cling to my memory of the stars, but even that faded away. I could no longer remember what stars were. I couldn’t remember what I was, who I was, or my life. Each time I tried to remember something- even a little piece- it would just scatter away. as if it was all being sucked into a tunnel.

One of the last things I tried to remember was how I died. I remembered the word “drink”, but that word was sucked up by the dark tunnel. That was the last word I would conceive of. I gave up fighting, and allowed the tunneled realm to consume me.

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Art by @cate.farrand on Instagram. This is the most accurate representation I could find of what death felt like for me- every bit of color in this image would represent my soul scattering away and breaking apart, disappearing from existence. I felt like I was experiencing this for an eternity, it was agonizing and traumatizing.

I died. In every sense of the word, I died. I can’t even tell you if at this point I could see colors, or entities, because I had no senses left. No more icaros, no more sensation, no words, no memories, no form. I could never find my world ever again.

I was so lost, so gone. But I no longer realized I was lost or gone.

At this point, I was on the other side of the tunnel.

I had completely transformed, into multiple dimensions. I was existing, but as something I can’t even explain, because it was so vast, so formless. It had no thoughts, no memories, no words, no vision, no senses. It was as if I became a galaxy. But of course, I had no way to understand I was a galaxy. I just…was. I was simply existing.

No suffering as we know it, no joy as we know it, just the being of interdimensions.

This being was not empty. It was full of activity, full of connection and vastness, and there was life everywhere, but not life as we know it. I can’t describe to you what anything looked like here, since that would be like describing to you a brand new color. I couldn’t actually see anything. I felt it, using a sense not known to humans.

My ego remembers everything as being dark. But I also know it wasn’t dark, not at all, because there was a lot happening. I just can no longer conceive of what it was, since at that time, I was feeling it all using a celestial sense.

I know there were twinkles of lights glowing everywhere, lights full of life. The lights gleamed with love, and I felt connected with all of them. We were all communicating together, but not in a way I could ever describe. I was connected to everything.

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A representation of the brief “glimpse” of life after death I had- a full transformation into the being of interdimensions. There is no concept of suffering here, only the experience of love in a state of formlessness. Note I could not actually see any of this, I was all of it. I experienced the being of light itself.

If a star could feel love, it would love how brightly it glowed. It would love being in the sky, communicating and shining with all the other stars.

That is how I can describe to you that even after dying, I was able to experience love.

I was only in this peaceful state of “life after death” very briefly. It was so brief, that I feel like I only caught a millisecond glimpse of it, if time even existed.

Then I was shot back through the tunnel and I opened my eyes back into my world.

I was shocked. I vaguely saw a symbol written in white on the wall. I had glimpses of the symbol, then my soul would escape my body again and enter the tunnel, then it would return for a brief second.

I had brief glimpses of my shaman sitting a person away from me (on his phone of all things!), then my soul escaped into a tunnel again.

I said to myself, “If I return to my body, I am never doing this again. I don’t HAVE to do this again. I will recover and go home.” I was so panicked, not even realizing that the fact I could think again meant I was alive.

Finally, I could think again!

I fought hard to get back into my body. I clung and CLUNG to that symbol on the wall. I purged, grabbing my bucket, trying to connect to the bucket. I never fought so hard for my life. I connected to my world as much as I could, staying with every glimpse of it I had. Then, I fully returned, but with a lot of fear. I was terrified of my soul leaving again.

I felt like some newborn baby. All I wanted to do was curl up and cry for years.

At this point, I completely forgot about that brief second of peace that I saw after the tunnel. My mind was taunted with memories of my ego being ripped apart.

My ego was back to its harsh self, screaming at me, “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT FOR. WHAT THE FUCK,YOU ARE FUCKING STUPID, GO THE FUCK HOME NOW, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF HERE, YOU ARE THE BIGGEST IDIOT ALIVE.”

This is why I had a hard life before. I identified too much with these thoughts. But these thoughts are my beautiful ego construct. My ego construct is merely just a grumpy grandparent, trying hard to keep me healthy and alive.

I touched my bucket, surprised I had purged entirely in the bucket, when I died and couldn’t even conceive of a bucket. I looked around as much as I could, taking in the scenery of the ceremony space.

I touched my hair- oh my beautiful hair! I kicked my feet out and waved my arms- my beautiful body! I touched my little boobs and my tiny tummy- I had it all!

I was SHOCKED I was alive. I was so flabbergasted, how I was alive, I can’t even begin to explain to you the shock factor of this.

After that, I didn’t say a word, I just literally just stood up and went outside and had a piss. I can’t believe after that, my body just got up and pissed, like nothing happened!

I was fully alive.

After taking the best piss of my life, I looked up at the stars. They looked completely normal. My body was tingling, my brain still repeating to me like a broken record “What the fucking hell, you need to get out of the jungle and go the fuck home before you develop schizophrenia, because that was NOT normal.”

And I felt, for the first time, as if my life was the biggest gift. All of this: my beautiful tingling body, my swearing and terrified brain, the beautiful ground, the beautiful stars above, the bustling night sounds of the jungle…

It was all a miracle.

I couldn’t sleep that night. People beside me were snoring, and I wondered just how they could just FALL ASLEEP. I was afraid if I fell asleep, I would lose my body again. I wanted nothing more than to be in my body. I just wanted to stay in my body, forever.

I love my body, and life is a precious gift. All my life, I’ve never felt connected to my world or to my body in any way. I connected more to the stars in the sky, compared to my own physical body. My physical body is what keeps me in this plane of existence- this Earth, this space, this dimension- and I love it here.

I no longer feel a need to be anywhere else. This Earth, this life ,this reality, is perfect just the way it is. I honestly have an amazing life, just from being here. I just want to cultivate love and kindness. Love is the most important energy there is, and it can be found in every dimension, in many different and wonderful forms.

Stay tuned for a part two to this, where I will write about how of all this has completely changed my life, and healed me.

Thank you so much for reading!

-Shunya Rose

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Gazing over the Marañón River, contemplating how happy I am to be alive. Again, thank you so much for reading! May you find happiness and gratitude in your life too ❤️

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