In Part I of this post, we explored the many ways purging can manifest with ayahuasca, along with some tips for when things seem stuck. Here we continue with further esoteric mysteries of La Purga:
In an essay titled “Ayahuasca and the Grotesque Body,” anthropologist Stephen Beyer notes the split that many Westerners seem to carry into ayahuasca ceremony, between our extremely high expectations of fantastical visions, and the dirty work of vomiting.
We find vomiting wretched and miserable; we struggle to maintain our body boundaries; above all, we seek ways to evade the ferocious physicality of the ayahuasca experience. When we drink ayahuasca, we focus on visions, insight, transformative experiences. We seek, in the words of psychologist James Hillman, “an imageless white liberation,” a flight from the reality of human embodiment.
And yet, la purga misma te ensena, his teacher tells him—”the vomiting itself teaches you.” It teaches you in a way that is not conceptual, but completely visceral—embodied, in the most fundamental sense of the word.
Knowing what you’re releasing can be powerful. “Vomit is ayahuasca’s highlighter,” says comedian Matt Ruby. “Like a cosmic punchline. No idea can have an exclamation point as powerful as vomit. It feels like the plant telling me: ‘If you remember nothing else from tonight, remember this’.”
It’s good, though by no means essential, to know what you’re purging. Sometimes the topic is excruciatingly clear. Sometimes you can ask and receive an answer, in visionary or auditory form, or simply a sense of knowing. Sometimes you don’t know, and that’s okay too.
Purging may simply trigger the mundane contents of your day, or your stomach: Hmm, I shouldn’t have eaten that sandwich for lunch today. Or watched that crappy show last night. Sometimes it’s a collective issue being released—the contents of the news, or the energy of the neighborhood you grew up in.
Sometimes it’s quite clear what you’re purging: a bad habit, an old emotion, a stuck concept. Then it’s good to go with the flow of the moment, consciously offering it up to the Lord of the Bucket, recognizing what’s leaving your body and blessing its departure. I find a certain degree of relief in knowing that everything I purge is leaving my body for good. It may not be the whole of an issue, but I will never, ever have to carry that particular portion again.
It’s also possible to purge for other people, consciously or not. Couples can share purges (friends too)—one reason to keep them seated separately in early ceremonies. Or the energy emitted by one person in a circle can keep vibrating, triggering others who carry similar imprints.
What’s In That Bucket, Anyway?
Then there’s the matter of what ends up in the bucket—sometimes strange things that appear to be completely unrelated to the food consumed that day. People have reported seeing dark shapes, entities, reptilian beings, slugs, malevolent eyes, or just a sense of horrible dark energy.
I once sat next to a purger whose vicinity reeked of stale bong water. Later he commented that seemed apt, based on his years of smoking weed as a teenager. Another person described to me a shitting purge that smelled overwhelmingly like cigarette smoke—the aroma of his childhood home, and his sense he was being cleaned.
Beyond these kinds of tales are even more bizarre experiences when what comes out is not the usual poop or puke, but textures and substances that seem to emit from internal organs beyond the gut—maybe the liver, or the gallbladder, or who knows what. To me this seems a fascinating albeit highly obscure topic for further research.
Raising the Vibration
The intrepid LSD explorer Chris Bache describes how purging often accompanies new realizations. “Deeper states of consciousness are also higher states of energy,” he comments. He describes vomiting as an energetic discharge—the body’s way of handling the energetic transformations that takes place during psychedelic sessions.
With ayahuasca, this is not just a metaphor—you can see and sense the energetic vibration being raised at a cellular level, and feel it vibrating in the body, in sometimes excruciating ways. “The Daime wants to upgrade you,” writes William Barnard, referring to ayahuasca. “It seeks to raise your vibratory level in a pretty forceful way.” He goes on to share this interesting observation in an interview:
And that may sound great intellectually, but when push comes to shove, when the Daime hits, there can be a tendency to brace against it. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to want to tighten up against that Force, which feels so strong and wants to open you up, almost on a cellular level. What I began to notice is that the more I tightened up, the more I was inclined toward nausea. But the more that I said yes to that Force, the less nausea would happen, and the more I began to feel at ease with the state of consciousness that is generated by the Daime. To me it’s a type of subtle body rewiring that happens over time. You begin to trust the process more.
I like his comment about subtle body rewiring (it’s how I’ve often thought of work with ayahuasca), and yes, you can begin to trust the process more. This speaks to the Great Work of offering up whatever is happening, understanding that whether it’s nausea, fear, pain, judgement, or panicked efforts at control—it’s all okay. It’s okay for these feelings to be here. These are the parts that need to be healed.
A Humbling Confrontation
Purging is a primal biological humbling, precisely because you can’t control it. Enteric forces take over and bring you down to the earth, literally—bent over the bucket, single-mindedly focused on the process. It’s the inverse of all the grandiose expectations you may have had about ayahuasca. It teaches you to be humble, grounded, and willing to release whatever blocks your path.
Purging is the medicine’s way of evicting stuck ideas, old emotions, past trauma—of creating more room in your body for you. And it’s the opposite of avoidance. Regardless of how you’ve tried to dodge responsibility in the past, in confronting the bucket, you’re at the mercy of what’s being cleaned out. Purging is a challenge that makes you reckon with your past, your traumas, everything that you’re carrying around in your body, knowingly or not. And take responsibility for it.
It drives you to utter surrender, and in the aftermath leaves you cleaned out and glowing, feeling miraculously reborn. On the other side of the purge is always gratitude, peace, and a newfound sense of freedom.
If you feel so inspired, share your insights/experiences in the comments below.