It’s almost too much.
I’ve been back from Brazil for a fortnight. It’s been perhaps less than 4 weeks since I last drank – but it feels like I’m experiencing everything through an extra set of eyes, breathing through an extra-sensitive second pair of lungs, smelling through a super subtle nose and touching the world through tiny-tendrilled hands. Things are so full on, that the old, conditioned Alistair seems about to burst into a floral meristem of flowers, dissolve into a cascade of laughter or evaporate into green sunshine.
I exaggerate a little. But only because I can.
For example, last night I went with my friend Rafael to see his piece Soledad at the Place in Euston. It was the first of three duets, danced by the miraculous dancers from his troupe, Toni Grove and Theo Clinkard. God, it was great. There are some dance performances where I mesh so totally with what’s going on on stage that I find myself leaning forward on the front of my seat, spasming in my legs, waggling my hands, grinning like a loon. It’s as if I want to lean over the rest of the audience and flow into those bodies on stage.
And with the sparkling 3rd eye insight I’ve had fairly consistently since coming back from the jungle, I see that this is why I’ve always loved dancers. Why I dated one in Berlin. Why I’ve always loved watching them. Always loved hanging out with them. Dance is the moment when the thinking mind descents and is silenced in the body. It’s the descent of thought.
Sue and I were sitting in Salvador, the old colonial capital of Bahia, on our way home after a month of ayahuasca and home furnishing. It was sticky and hot and the sun was shining and I was telling her about an article I’d read on the Brazilian carnival. Sempre carne vale. Only the flesh counts. For four days, Brazilians everywhere banish the usual dictatorship of the mind and make the body king. Sex, kissing, groping, pogoing up to the sky (which they call pulando, the reaching up into the infinite), the endless, 4×24-hour dance-a-thon.
And this is what make the Brazilians wise. So many Brazilians seem almost psychic to people coming from America or Western Europe. They seem unnaturally empathic and tuned into what we’re thinking. But it comes from being in their bodies. Being accustomed to spending time in their flesh. When you’re there in your body, you notice other people’s bodies, sexually, but also their body language. Instinctively, the body’s natural intelligence gleans a field of information from the people your with. Their posture, their gestures, the frequency of their bodies.
This is what makes me enjoy being with dancers.
And fortunately, the double-dose of ayahuasca this year has allowed me to sit comfortably in my bones since I came back from Brazil.
It was an intense 3 week stay with Silvia this time. With 2 groups, mostly from Britain, and some very profound experiences – both my own and other people’s. Cross-pollinating and co-creating.
This too was almost too much. Sue, Gary and I (who’d been facilitating the seminars) were crumpled and limp by the end. Almost too much: holding everyone else’s energy and drinking ourselves. But in a strange way: it’s never too much. It’s just that we’re not really used to the full intensity of things. As T.S. Eliots has his bird say: “Human kind / cannot bear very much reality.”
I experienced the most profound healing I’ve ever encountered out there. Six hours of forehead-grasping grief and heart-popping release as I healed thirty years of sad misperception of the world. And coming home I feel the resonance of that healing every single day.
Going down to my parent 2 weeks ago, I cycled through the sea-salty spring air, along the sea front at Stokes Bay, through the gorse-scented road towards Lee and I was lifted up into a hyper-sensitive state and just as had happened with the ayahuasca in Brazil, I was able to transport myself back to the parts of my life that needed a loving touch.
One of the most astonishing things about aya therapy is that it can give you full access to your complete experiential record. You realize that nothing is lost. All memories remain, no matter how tiny. And in a weirdly wonderful space you realise that you have access to every single sensation and thought you’ve ever had – not only that but you’re possessed of an amazing intuitive wisdom that knows exactly which bits of your life to revisit and what to do with them.
So standing in the sunshine outside the house near the Ranges where I grew up, or outside my primary school, I was nearly knocked over by a tsunami of three-dimensional memory. Smells, colours, textures of how it was to be a 7-year-old in the playground. And the transformative delight of being able to put my adult arm around my young shoulder and tell him that everything is perfect as it is.
The same thing happened this bank holiday weekend in Berlin. I made an almost hypnotic pilgrimage to all the 6 appartments I lived in over the 6 years I lived there. This involved going down to Neukölln and Dahlem Dorf, areas I’ve not visited in more than 12 years. And it’s incredible how the entrance to an U-bahn, the arrangements of shop signs, the cool of a entrance hall is a trigger for so much memory.
The main, tangible benefit of this – apart from the almost orgasmic shivers of deep-tissue rememberance – was noticing how much happier I am now than I was then. I stood in Hof of my flat in Reichenberger Strasse – where I lived during my wildest party days – and I was bowled over by the birdsong. Berlin has an inordinate number of trees and they’re home to the most boisterous and vocal bird population. On some subliminal level I must have notice this, because their song awakened all sorts of memories in me – but I certainly never enjoyed them back then. Even in the exquisite long summer evenings, I must have been constantly swathed in a self-conscious cloud of worry and defensiveness. I don’t actively remember the birds.
Walking back from the fabulously cool Freischwimmer bar on the canal in Treptow, I cut through the Görlitzer Park in the dark. There was a little moon and the mayflowers were giving out night scent, and the smell of the canal at night was everywhere. And I hit a crowd of nightingales, so loud in the trees, I had to stop and shiver with pleasure.
I hope this lasts all year.