Christine Sismondo traveled to the Peruvian rainforest to try ayahuasca, a brew with an active ingredient, dimethyltryptamine or DMT, “that, some claim, can cure illness and addiction, help people gain insight into primary relationships and, for others, offer glimpses into the origin of life.” She describes her own experience ingesting and then purging the drug:
For the next two hours, I felt better than I have – maybe in my whole life. It was like my body had never experienced stress – ever. Gravity was about half as strong as usual. My spine straightened. I listened to the songs and watched shapes form in the trees. I saw friends, Day of the Dead-like images, and, I’m pretty sure, President Taft. I thought thoughts – the kind you don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about in everyday life. Nothing profound. Mostly platitudes about how to have a better life and be a better person. But I felt those platitudes profoundly. This will be disappointing to those who want to hear about aliens and divine beings, I’m sure. I think I saw a third eye image at one point, but I’m also pretty sure I saw Donald Duck. My husband saw a geisha. He, incidentally, took a second dose, and never felt nearly the range of highs and lows I did.
I did feel two things that are more on the esoteric side that I was genuinely surprised about. First, I felt, viscerally, for the first time in my life, that stress was a choice and that I might be able to eliminate it. Call it mind-body stuff or, as I prefer, stoicism, I could finally see a path wherein I could exercise some more power over my reactions to things.
Finally, I felt, also for the first time, a sense that the rainforest was a living, breathing thing. That’s obvious, I realize. But I felt the power of the place and even the plants in a non-intellectual way. I can’t explain it perfectly, but I felt I had honestly drunk the spirit of the vine. I didn’t come home with a new plant-based religion or anything. But I feel more like I understand how important it might be to save this sacred, pre-modern place, by patronizing it – or however we can.