Harley makes lines of light brown powder on the plate and rolls up a piece of paper in a tube. Inhaling this through the nose seems like the most challenging part of the upcoming yopo ceremony. I have experienced many psychedelics and am not afraid of the experience itself. I’ve been far, I’ve been deep. I feel ready.

We are waiting for the sunset and Harley throws another handful of the coco leaves behind his cheek. He says it will help him to stay focused and be more present for me and Elizabeth. He suggests we smoke some tobacco to bring more clarity to our intention and calm ourselves. I didn’t plan to smoke and feel rather calm but readily roll up. Sure, why not.

We smoke and use the toilet again. Harley warns about it, saying that once the process starts we won’t be able to move much and the need for the toilet might make the experience more complicated.

We are back on our blankets. I pull out a bottle of Spearmint essential oil and stick it close to my nose – Ba, maybe a bit too close as I feel its burning. I wonder if I should have asked our facilitator Harley if it would be ok and not interfere with the medicine – too late. Spearmint smells so nice and I hand the bottle to Elizabeth, she likes the smell and Harley takes a few sniffs too. We blow our noses again. We are ready and Harley hands me the plate and the paper tube. He says we should go first as it will be better for him to be a little bit behind. No demonstration. I put the tube in my right nostril and inhale some of the powder, I switch the nostril and repeat. There is still some left. I try to do it quickly as I’ve been warned the medicine starts working very fast and I might not be able to finish if I stall. More powder in the right nostril, leftover in the left. I hand the plate and the tube to Elizabeth, feeling a bit awkward about my nose juice on the paper tube. She doesn’t seem to mind and proceeds with her own line. My eyes are tearing from the powder but I don’t feel much burning. I sit back and wait.

There is a minute or two of vague sensations in the body. I start panting. I remember that Harley recommended keeping the eyes closed, and close my eyes. Immediately intensely strong colourful patterns appear and I feel unwell. I want to escape the visuals as I feel they make me more nauseated. There is no escape, and the wave of nausea culminates in my stomach contents coming up. I remember to lean in the direction where there is no blanket and vomit. I feel intensely unwell, there is no concept of the blanket and other people and the reality anymore. Just my suffering, No escape. Nothing and no one can help me. The medicine has started working and I have to face it alone.

I moan and groan and find the vocalizing my suffering is the only thing I can do. I scream like a hurting animal. I lean forward and vomit again. I am clenching handkerchief that my 92 year old friend gifted me and try to wipe my face. Raw animal suffering. The psychedelic disorientation is so strong and chaotic. I feel like I might die, but can’t do anything to prevent it. I remember to keep my head up and not collapse in my vomit. I scream again, the pain is released with the intensity of my voice and I want to continue screaming. I hear Harleys voice “Please don’t scream”. I am able to talk. I say “Why not?”. I remember that he said if we feel impelled to vocalize, if icaros are coming – voice them, as it’s considered disrespectful to resist when the spirit of the medicine moves through you. In my suffering delirious mind my screaming is as sacred as the icaros. It helps me. I scream again. “Please don’t scream”, says Harley again. “The neighbours will be concerned”. “They should be concerned” I say. I see my suffering as the archetypal suffering of all, and I don’t want people to pretend that it is not happening. I am ill. We are all ill, and I remember I’ve been praying for healing for myself and others. “Help me, God ”.

I remember God and cling to the idea of something merciful and powerful. If anything can help me – it’s God. “Please God, help me”. I hear Harley is talking to Elizabeth. Another wave of vomit comes and doesn’t bring any relief. But the idea that there are other people who took medicine with me helps me remember the concept of respect. I don’t want to vomit on them or their things, I don’t want them to suffer from the pain in my screaming. I want to open my eyes and see how  Elizabeth is doing but I can’t. I am grateful to Harley for being strong and not collapsing to his own experience but attending to us.

Snot is pouring out of my nose but I don’t have anything to blow it into, I exhale it like two little rivers and register the absolute lack of concern for being civil and neat. There is only my suffering and no help. I try to harness my desire to scream and start talking. I speak Russian to God. I ask for help. I am powerless against the intensity of the suffering but I want it to ease. “It is so difficult. Help me. Help me Help me”. I claw the earth underneath my hands. I feel the strength of my suffering is also my strength. I try to tap into it, to not give up to death, to continue seeking relief if only through my intention. “Help me. It is so difficult. Help me. I pray for health. I pray for love. I pray for the end of my suffering”. The strength of the rummaging animal in me is my strength, but what is it fighting against? I feel that it needs to surrender. I don’t know how to surrender to suffering. The strong fighting demon in me is me and makes me strong. Makes me not submissive – not to Harley, not to anyone. But it remembers respect and tries to make the fight less loud and less traumatic to others. I need to be strong so I don’t die from the intensity or I need to be weak and give up to it? “Help me, God. It is very difficult”.

There comes the moment when I can see again. I see the outline of my fellow travellers. I don’t know how they feel, but they seem to be the background to my struggle. I want to find the resolution. I am Maria. I am the oldest here. I need to find the healing. If not me, then who. I am strong. I am strong enough. I am still alive, and not screaming. The vomiting comes again and I find my dirty little handkerchief. Surprise and a certain sense of pride for being so prepared, for having an item of comfort. I am Maria. I start to verbalize my thoughts in English, for the sake of my English speaking companions. Harley said that he finds Russian language terrifying, I won’t scare him. I won’t scream. My rummaging animal is finding consolation in my voice. I like my voice. I like to be alive. I don’t like vomiting. I don’t like sitting in the vomit. I like Elizabeth, I wish her well. I like Harley. I am grateful to him for keeping himself together, for being an inspiration of strength for me. It is so difficult, God. Help me. Whatever happening with me is the great mystery of the battle and surrender. I surrender to God. I choose God. I choose feeling well, and not suffering. But God, almighty God created me, just like it created suffering. Why? Why does God want the suffering, why did it create the demon in me that chooses to harm my body in a certain way to produce ill health. I feel that it’s the weakness and impurity that I have brought onto myself with my lifestyle choices. With the salami I decided to buy and eat for lunch, with everything that I, my demon, chooses to do to create pimples on my face, headaches, sore muscles. It is the fight between the demon and God. But God created this demon, and allows this battle. Why?

Because it is the game. The game cannot be too easy, otherwise it’s not interesting to play it. From the point of eternity, nothing is bad, everything creates a particular development of the game, and our suffering and death are repeated seemingly endlessly, when the demon wins. But the demon cannot win forever. God created Maria, this Maria, that is strong enough to withstand the battle and make God the winner. I choose God, I choose health, I choose peace and beauty. I am strong. Maybe there were other Marias and they were not strong enough. But God keeps trying, and this Maria is strong and can survive all the rummaging of the demon, all the choices that bring suffering onto myself, and choose God. Choose Health.

It is enough. We all suffered so much. It is a very difficult game and we kept loosing in it. But God perceivers. There is still so much of it around us. And we all keep carrying the message of love and the message of God as well as we can. The neighbours don’t like me screaming, because they have children, who might be scared. So the neighbours choose God in their care for their children, protecting them, feeding them, creating homes and gardens for them. There are trees and grass, and cats, and puppies. I like puppies. I know that God is winning, that demon is loosing because I choose the beautiful creation of God. Not the ones it allowed to exist for the sake of the game, but the ones that express its beautiful nature. Nature. Colours. Music. My ukulele. God created people that came before me, that know how to make ukuleles, God allowed me to have enough money to buy it. Maybe I can’t play it very well, but I try, and I like the sound I create with my awkward autistic fingers.

I am autistic and I like to play. I am a child that likes to play. Just like God. God is playing in creation and trying to create a Maria that will find it. Just like me trying to understand what I am, find myself. I am the image of God. We both like to play. We both like nature and flowers and animals. I am like God and of course God loves me for that. God loves me, and wants me to find it, helping, reminding, constantly reminding me about its presence in all the beauty in the world. In these two people sitting next to me, and laughing at my funny rambles and agreeing with me. God creates people that like me and like to see me play. I play with God, in trying to find it. I shake my head from side to side, happy at finding the answer, loving that answer – it is all a game and I love playing.

I am Maria, I am a woman, and now I know that Female is primary. It is what appeared first and finds its strength in being the birther, the creator, being the mother of all things. The game must be harder for a man. Being born out of a woman, being fostered by something so different from him, and needing to find the purpose for his existence, his polar energy is a very difficult task. All the men I know find it unbearable and hide their agony in drugs, power struggles, games of aggression. They feel inferior, and rage from that feeling. They hate the woman, they hate the mother, also hating themselves for wanting her, for enjoying her care and affection, for wanting to be the baby, weak and receiving.

And we, the women, tend to feel their hate and start wondering – what is this creature, male, that came out of us, but is so different from us. We feel the threat coming from the men and hate them back. The perpetual game of hate. God created us polar opposites, knowing that we would fear one another, and try to destroy one another, until one moment we find our strength and show it to the other, and see it in the other, and appreciate the polar opposite for something that is a reflection of God too, but in a way that compliments us. Love. That is the purpose of this game that God created. Creating a Man and a Woman – the battle fields for two Demons and two Gods, trying to fight the other – male Demon against female Demon, learning our strengths in the process and finally recognising the strength and the value in the other – male God and female God. Noticing the God in ourselves, and seeing it reflected in the other. The divine mystery of Love. Of God, whose essence is creation. Of God, who doesn’t know what it is, till it creates us, and we grow and evolve to see God, to find God in ourselves and finally see it in others, in the Other. And help God understand what it is, through us, through our understanding. We are oh so important, God needs us to find itself. God needs the God in me to win over the Demon in me, and helps me in this battle. Of course it helps me. I am grateful for everything that I encounter that makes me grateful. I am grateful for being able to have the feeling of gratitude. For noticing the beauty. For noticing God. For choosing life and participation in the divine game every day. It is a very difficult game, but I am strong enough. I am Maria, the loved daughter of God. I help God to find itself, to know itself and in this is my divine purpose.

I see Harley sitting in front of me. This male, whose part in the game is not easy, but who tries as hard as I do. Despite all the difficult turns in his life, he is still alive as well, he chooses to live and help others, help me and Elizabeth to see God, to win in this game and not to surrender to the Demon. I see and appreciate his strength, his willingness to help and I know that this is the essence of being a male – the father principle. Harley is a man, and I am grateful to him for being that, for showing the complimentary to mine strength and helping me in my process. I remember his personal pain of recently losing his mother, who chose death over her child, over Harley, who did not see his value and couldn’t love him. I put my hand on Harley’s forearm “I am so sorry, I am so sorry, please forgive me, please forgive the woman, please forgive your mother for not seeing the value in you, for not seeing the value in men, for not being able to love you”, I keep repeating. It is a very difficult game, and we all have made so many mistakes, but we are learning, we are getting better at that. “I am very sorry. You are beautiful, you have the right to exist just like women do, we all are needed in this play, only through both of our genders, only thorough overcoming the natural hate of the opposite, we can find God and God can find itself. Please forgive me, forgive her, forgive us”. “There is nothing to forgive, it’s ok”, says Harley. I am grateful for his softness, for his allowing me to go through this most intense, most difficult ceremony and being a part of it.

I turn to Elizabeth, loving her is easier. I see how beautiful this young woman is and I wish her only well, I wish her to keep winning in this battle, to keep choosing God, to keep choosing health and herself. She is strong. She is courageous. She came to this ceremony on her last day in Vilcabamba after our intense San Pedro ceremony the day before. I love seeing another strong woman. I find a little metal medallion in my pocket, that I bought 4 years ago – it has a simple flower on one side and a word JOY on the other, I hand it to Elizabeth. I want her to have it, to remember me, to remember our experiences together, and remember our discoveries – of God, of play, of beauty, of the strength in the women and the value in the men. “Remember me, remember Maria”. “Thank you, it is beautiful. Of course, I will”, we are both smiling at the beauty we see in each other.

Yopo. Yopo. Yopo. It has been so very difficult, but so very rewarding. I feel like the depth of my insights is very worth the difficult journey to them. I am ready to repeat it again, when and if I need them. My faulty human brain tends to have faulty human memory and I forget the lessons I learn. Yopo is the toughest and the most effective teacher that can remind me again. I am very happy I’ve met it.

Inconspicuous seeds of a tropical tree, ground up with burnt seashells have brought into the open the battle between my Demon and my God so vividly and let me pick the side consciously. I choose the side of God. I am strong to carry both of them inside and pick the side with the central seed of my consciousness. I am Maria and I am with God. I pray for Love and I see Love. I am Maria and I am strong. I carry Love inside me. Thank you, Yopo for letting me see, for letting me feel, for letting me find God again.