What I’ve Learned From Paying $1200 For An Ayuhasca-Retreat I’ve Never Went To

There are few things in live that annoy me more than buying things that I don’t need. When it happens, I’m usually unhappy with myself for a few hours. But I’m still carrying some of the trauma of spending $1200 on something that I’ve never even used.

Wasting money bothers me for several reasons. 

First, it indicates to me that my decision making was flawed to begin with. I figure that if I had made an effort to think, I wouldn’t have bought that plane ticket, that sweater at Zara, or a ton of notebooks to add on top of my existing stack of notebooks. My own lack of foresight caused me loss. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Second, wasting money simply an ugliness to it. Using our resources to purchase things we need is a human act. Isn’t there’s something aesthetic about buying stuff that we need? It’s rational; it’s economic. But wasting resources reminds me of my proclivity to mental error, my least favorite trait.

Third, losing money hurts. Being homo economicus, I dislike loss much more than I would ever enjoy a gain of similar magnitude. I always remember the pain of it. That’s my mind trying to help me avoid making the same mistake in the future.

In other words, spending $1200 on a service I’ve never even received bothers me for three reasons: personal, aesthetic, and economic. 

Losing a sum of money isn’t nearly as painful if there’s a good reason for why it happened. (Especially if that reason it beyond our control.) 

If only my plane almost crashed because and they had to turn it around last minute. I could have won the lottery and went to receive my price instead. Or maybe I simply got sick.

The day I didn’t go to my $1200-Ayahuasca-retreat there was no such reason. I simply failed to enter the bus. I was paralyzed. 

I wasn’t scared. I had taken Ayahuasca before. Sure, my mum had expressed some worries in the days leading up to the retreat, but that’s how just how she is. I had told her after my first experience with psychedelics, so why wouldn’t I tell her before the second time? 

Yet, her concerned email made me google stuff. Never google stuff after you’ve already made a decision on anything.

The were confusing days. It was almost as if thinking about the upcoming event was actively starting to ruin it for me.

How could that be? When I booked the retreat I was really looking forward to it.

I wanted to do something for myself that would allow me to finally get away from work. For about nine months, everything I did was moving forward. I wanted a break–just a couple of days were I could experience something completely different; give up control. (Obviously, I liked the idea of moving forward while giving up control.)

I also figured that I could count this retreat as a business expense and the organizer happily agreed to omit “Ayuhasca” from the bill. 

You could argue that these weren’t the purest intentions to ingest a potent psychedelic to begin with. I would have to agree.

The first time I went to an Ayuhasca-retreats was different. Then, I just hoped that the experience would help me deal with my reoccurring bouts of anxiety and depression.   I figured that anything would be better than what my life was like in the moment. There was nothing to lose.

It’s often impossible to find the causes for anything. But I felt that this first experience had helped me. (In fact, immediately after I considered moving to the Amazon for a while to make it a regular thing!) 

Only when anxiety had its comeback did I start to consider taking Ayuhasca a second time. A year of work had started to take its toll on my mental state. I also knew that I was too obsessed to simply take a vacation. Another retreat would be a good way to open my mind (literally) to other things. 

How then, did I end up in front of a bus, paralyzed?

In the beginning, I went with what every self-respecting adult would do. I blamed it on my mum. She was the one to send me a worried email after all. I had trusted that she would trust me and my judgement. Instead she decided to do internet-research herself.

We all know what a worried parent’s internet research looks like when they try to find information on what you’re currently doing. They will google “ayshuasca + death”, “traveling in Asia + horrible diseases”, “or “investing stock + losing all money.” 

In science, we call these search results a biased sample. 

Nevertheless, her worries instilled second thoughts in me. What if I do get a psychosis? What if I come out a completely different person?

I wasn’t quite ready to change my life (yet). For a bit longer, it seems, I had to hold on to my fanatic drive to move forward.

But it didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t my mums fault. 

Never before had I not done what I wanted to cater to my family’s irrational concerns–not even when my grandpa “urged” me to “return from South East Asia promptly because a war between Thai separatists and the state was likely.” (That was after the Bangkok-Bombing in 2015.) 

Why did I change my mind this time? 

My own role in the confusion was impossible to reject. If one misinformed email by my mother could nudge me towards not attending a $1200-Ayahuasca-retreat that I wanted to, there was a different reason. Maybe I’ve never been sure to begin with. Perhaps I’ve been guided by the wrong reasons.

What are wrong reasons anyway?

Metaphysical discussion on how it may not have been the right time to ingest “the medicine” again don’t really help. My intuition told me what was best for me?

Intuition isn’t trust-worthy unless you’re well-rested, fasted, and it’s sunny outside. 

In a case of total mental paralysis, intuition shouldn’t be our go-to heuristic. For intuition to work, we need to be free from muddled thoughts and emotional chaos on the inside. But if the beds are aleady burning, I think we should act from a place of cold hard logic.

So if it wasn’t my mums fault, maybe it was women in general!

My girlfriend entered the picture along with my mum. What if I come out a different guy and cause them pain, I wondered. What if I don’t want to be with my girlfriend anymore after I’ve seen dancing dwarfs lacing rainbows with honey for several nights in a row? 

These are valid concerns, but they weren’t making things easier for my brain that suddenly found itself in a loop.

Also, another part of me thought: So what! It’s my life and I should focus on what I want to do. And if should have an inside that makes me not to want to be with my girlfriend, then perhaps that’s a good thing!

Clearly, I wasn’t in the right state to make a decision.

I didn’t take the bus. 

But I felt horrible–like I’ve just cut off my own arm. Back home, my mind kept of racing. I ate something, hoping that would help me clear my thoughts. It helped a little bit. 

Suddenly I had the Eureka-moment: I would go after all. So back to the train station I went. 

As I waited for the last possible train to get me me to my destination on time, the process started repeated itself. Stuck in some parallel-universe.

Even now, I still feel physical discomfort as I’m recalling the moment to put it into words. 

There is was again: complete inner paralysis. An overwhelming sensation of opposing forces tearing at me from opposite directions announced itself.

Frenetically, my tried to solve the problem by running the outcomes of either decisions against each other. The stress was almost unbearable. Imagine the scenario of being at the retreat, compute what it would be like to stay home. Which one was better? What if I could get a refund? Wouldn’t that change everything? But I didn’t know about that, so I had to act as if I didn’t. 

The harder I tried, the more distant the solution to the problem became. So that train left, too. 

Back to my apartment I went. I started crying, the second the door closed behind me. 

There was no way to calm myself. Even going to the gym, which always works, didn’t do the job that day. I felt embarrassed, confused, angry, and sad. I judged and loathed, but I also felt bad for myself. How could I even get myself into that mess?

It felt like I had betrayed myself in a fundamental manner—that I had done something unforgivable.

For two days, I existed in a dream-like state. Everything was under suspense. I was like a zombie, half-living my days, constantly wondering whether I should have gone to the retreat, painfully aware of the possibility that I could still go. 

As my mind grew less agitated, a calculating fear of loss took over. I’m just going to do it, I thought. Either way, I will learn something. Even if I just go to the retreat without taking Ayuhasca itself, I will at least get some vacation. I was determined to get my money’s worth. 

On the morning of the second day, I went. Never had taking action based on a decision felt so great.

I booked another bus ticket, then boarded a train, then another one. My total travel time at this point had been six hours. I had about ninety minutes left to go. 

But  pressure had silently been building in the background from the moment I left home. I didn’t notice it until it I was already midway—and once again it was taking on an inhumane proportion. When those first anxiety-triggered thoughts stated to enter my consciousness, I did my best to whack them off. No fucking way, I thought. There is no way, I’m going to go through this one more time. I’ve decided to go, so I will be going no matter what. 

Then, about to embark on the last leg of my journey, it all came crashing down. I was going through it one more time. And this time it was worse than ever. The internal pressure was so intolerable that I started crying in the middle of the train station—psychic forces ripping at me from all direction.

Doubts exploded into my awareness, overshadowed only by the disgust and disappointment I felt in regards to myself—topped the silliness of it all. 

Once again, I found myself in complete paralysis, unable to think even a single clear thought. My phone was almost dying, but in a hectic effort, I managed to book a train ticket back home. The last train was already waiting at the platform.

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