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Ayahuasca experience - by Joseph A. Cahill, MD Neurologist

Updated: Jul 3



What is reality?

Biologically, reality is the summation of all sensory inputs sprinkled with desire,fear, love and colored by past experiences (memories). Broken down to the simplest of notions, the brain relies on millions of packets of basic information (memories) acquired over our lifetimes. Everything activating and deactivating brain receptors by way of sophisticated

neurochemicals. This is a chair. That is person. This is good. That is bad. Time moves forward.

Space has orientation. This information is perpetually lost and gained over years of personal

growth. Constantly changing. An organized entropy. Depending on the need at a particular


Neurological pathways allow the user to retrieve this information (memories) when

needed and occasionally when not needed giving way to neuropathology. There is an old

wives’ tale that the indigenous Americans couldn’t see the large European ships off their coast

because they didn’t have experience within their memory centers to draw from. The ships

were nonexistent.

The brain is a marvelous tool when utilized to its potential and it’s dependent

on what we fill it with. Novel experiences allow us to see the ships and allow us to make

appropriate decisions at the appropriate times; as that fateful day in history reminds us.

Learning, on the other hand, is repeated stimuli that, over time, forms a permanent synapse or

pathway and thus a memory - a firm experience. The collection of experiences summed with

real time data are what we perceive as reality.

But what is reality? Really?

I dabbled with psychedelics as a teen though the frightening experience of doing acid for the

first time link with a Led Zeppelin laser light show at the age of 17 prevented me from further

trips until I entered the Navy. Ayahuasca was so much more. Ayahuasca was what some

would consider a ‘spiritual enlightenment’.

I once believed that reality was what was in front of us. What we could touch, smell, see. What

was learned. Anything outside of that (spirits, gods, ghosts) were mere imaginings of religious

zealots and psychotics. These limited biological resources (sensory organs, brain, spinal cord,

etc), well, limit us with what is possible. Limit our realities. That’s what they’re supposed to do.

It organizes our sensory input into something we are comfortable with. Our brains protect us.

What if there was something else?

Something outside of our known realities. The Simulation

Theory argues that there are only 2 possible outcomes for mankind:

1. Man doesn’t live long enough to achieve technological advances that we (humans) could create a simulation so realistic that it could mimic reality such that we couldn’t tell the difference between simulated reality and real reality (humans become extinct because of some cataclysm) or

2. We are, in fact, currently living in a simulated reality. The extended notion of simulations upon simulations layered one on top of the other exhume the possibilities of the first reality as the lone creation of life on earth in an endless, limitless soup of planets as the solitary example of “God’s” only living creation. When one begins to tumble down the rabbit hole, anxiety swells until we can live no more, frozen with fear.

But our brains are limited (contrary to my cursory statement) by those things which make us

human; Desire, fear, love... past experiences (memories). In fact, our brains are so tuned into

the now and what’s in front of us that it enables us to make sense of the world around us.

Hungry when we need to be. Not afraid when we needn’t. It also limits us in what we may

perceive as reality. The fact is, our realities are a Cliff’s Notes of the world around us. Like the

ever present parent protecting us from the dangers of life the nervous system allows us to see

and know what it wants us to know at the moment so that we may act to preserve the species.

I went to Peru on a sort of dare. A drunk dial to a friend daring him to go for a psychedelic

experience that we could talk about around intoxicating dinners with pals. My brain was in a

perpetual chaotic state which often led to ill-advised choices with my family bearing the brunt

of my misadventures. On the outside, I was a well adjusted citizen with a degree in medicine

specializing in the brain. One would argue that because of my specialty, I had it figured out.

There were moments where I thought so too. On the inside, though I was an anxious, self

doubting sycophant riddled with egregious behavior. I was looking for something outside to fix

my internal illness. I was sick. An ego maniac with low self esteem with an endless barrage of

incapacitating voices. I had experience living and traveling outside the US, my perpetual

comfort zone and felt comfortable in novel experiences. I was not prepared for the place I was

about to embark.

Peru is like most semi-modern Latin American countries. A wild west sprinkled with a

modernist vision. A juxtaposition of old world and new living beneath a cacophony of sights,

sounds and people. Living in Mexico prepared me for the daily feeling of being mortal. The

feeling as though I may die and that each day might be my last. It’s an exhilarating feeling

meshed with excitement and fear. Though, I always felt connected to modern life in Mexico,

specifically Guadalajara. Guadalajara is a sprawling metropolitan teeming with Mercedes

Benzes and horse drawn carts. The second largest city outside of Mexico City. A city purely

Mexican though built by narcotraficantes. Safety through violence. I often ventured out into the

Mexican wild though I could always re-establish my feelings of safety (and reality) traveling

back to the big city. A city with a private army paid for by drug money gives a false sense of


Peru is what I imagine Mexico might have been back in the 70s with its unforgiving

smog, bustling street people and wild, untamed environments. Peru was Mexico in loin cloth.

Peru was Mexico without Facebook or Instagram. It is a place where one can truly expand his/

her understanding of the mind via emotional and spiritual enlightenment. It is a place that will

leave you changed forever.

I have become transformed by my experience in Peru with the help of Pawel and his team and

the medicinal plants of Peru were instrumental in that experience.

So, then, what is reality?

It is something far more than one can imagine in his/her mind. It is

more than an organic collection of memories and thoughts. More than simple neurochemicals

performing their due diligence in creating a world that makes sense to us.

In Peru you will find that reality is only limited by your desires to learn and experience.

Awake in Travel will show you that reality.

Joseph A. Cahill,

MD Neurologist

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