Healing and Expansion via Plant Medicine
Author – Kate Alderman
First written in May 2018
Updated in August 2021
After a near-death motorcycle accident in 2011, I began to realise that there was far more to life than my current experience. The “accident” happened with divine timing.
Everything probably looked fine from the outside to most people in my life, however, what was happening on the inside really wasn’t harmonious. A feeling of not being good enough had developed as a child, and when my heart was broken as a teenager, I had no idea how to be there for myself emotionally. There’s no blaming here, this is just life, it’s just what happens, and what is.
To compensate for the developing self-aversion, lack of esteem, and hole in the soul, inherently I’d developed a range of habits and addictions in an attempt to control and escape these feelings. Some of these being socially acceptable while others shunned upon. Under eating, over-training and exercising, alcohol, party drugs, bodybuilding, a fixation on success, and very unhealthy desire for absolute health and perfection, all eventually brought me to a feeling of numbing dullness. In this state of despair I asked, “Really life, is this all you’ve got, is this how it’s going to be forever?”
Only months later “Bang”, the divine “accident”, received as the beginning of an absolute wake up.
With a whole new perspective and wonder, I began to ask the bigger questions. “Why am I still here, and what does life want from me?” Naturally, I began to deepen my practice within Yoga and meditation, and in doing so, rediscovered an innate spirit and intuitive connection, and this brought with it many opportunities within self-development, healing and expansion. I began to realise how much of life I was missing out on due to my lack of presence.
In June 2013 I was inspired to participate in the Landmark Forum and the Landmark Advanced course. Within this I developed a realisation of the impact and limitations of the knowledge and belief systems we unconsciously gather within our journey, the “blind spots” that block us from experiencing life fully. This was the beginning of living a completely transparent life, of peace, love, freedom, and integrity. There aren’t words to express my love for Mum, Dad, and family. I was gaining so much from Landmarks programs that I enrolled in the 9-month Leadership Program only two months later. As I was liberating myself from my own fears and suffering, I was naturally inspiring others to do the same, and this inspired me further.
In November 2013 I discovered Ayahuasca through a new yoga friend who had just returned from Peru, and her first experience in meeting this profound plant medicine. Hearing her speak briefly of this encounter, I felt a strong “knowing” and “calling” from this plant spirit that I was to journey to Peru and have my own experience. I did my research immediately, found the most reputable temple in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon, about five hours from Iquitos, and I booked for June 2014.
The term Ayahuasca is derived from the Quechua words “aya ” meaning soul or spirit and “huasca” meaning rope or vine. Ayahuasca is known as the “Mother” of all plants. She has a very motherly energy; straight to the point, brutally honest as needed, yet her essence is warm, comforting and devoted.
In preparation for connecting with Ayahuasca, one must abstain from: dairy, wheat, soy, salt, sugar, caffeine, stimulants, alcohol, drugs, heavy fried foods, fermented foods, and all sexual interaction including self-pleasure. For this particular journey and for the length of the experience, one-month of preparation was advised by the Shipibo, indigenous medicine men and women. These guidelines were followed throughout, and for another month post connection and experience.
There were six months between booking and journeying to the Amazon, and in this time some inner clearing took place. I could feel the Mother’s energy so much so, that I purged by vomiting on two separate occasions. Without having ingested any plant medicine, the Mother was already starting to facilitate openings, beginning by showing me how to be more loving, kind, gentle and compassionate with myself. Deep shifts were taking place, my mind let go of many behavioural patterns and programs that were no longer serving, and I began to feel more deeply with my heart. What I felt was truly important, and what it was that I really wanted from life was rising to the surface of my consciousness.
June arrived and so did this wonderful opportunity to travel solo to South America. Only a year or two beforehand I would’ve been very hesitant about traveling to a foreign country on my own, however with this “calling” came a natural faith, and a knowing that I was being divinely taken care of. Previous experiences within personal development had me realise that when I feel scared and excited, I feel more alive than ever, and my choice was to stand in the realm of excitement.
As a group of 24 people from various countries, we met in Iquitos, Peru, then traveled five hours by bus and boat deep into the Amazonian jungle, to the temple, where we were ever so warmly greeted by the Shipibo men and women. Over the next fourteen days we participated in seven Ayahuasca ceremonies.
During this time many veils were lifted as I saw more of the illusions and fear systems I had created and was living in. Letting go of these brought light, peace, and a realignment with love and divinity. Duality shifted and a sense of Oneness and connection was experienced on a whole new level. I discovered a wonderful sense of surrender, a deeper love for myself, and level of gratitude, and sacredness beyond anything ever experienced. A deep and profound connection began to evolve with Mother Earth, the plant and animal kingdom, the spirit realm, and life itself. I took from this encounter, a feeling of being a conduit of pure loving energy, and very much a part of great spirits grace and wisdom – we all are. The more I un-yield and un-learn past behavioural patterns, programs and beliefs, the more I am reminded of my foundational roots, abilities, and soul purpose. I was naturally learning how to be there for myself, and I had come back to living from the fullness of my heart.
After a truly awakening experience it was challenging to say goodbye to all I had met within the journey, however I was excited about returning to Australia to integrate. Life continued to shift and I was more than happy for nature and spirit to take care of this. There was no need to worry or hurry, all was happening in perfect timing, my job and practice, was and still is, to stay present and feel, rather than think my way through life. This was saving me so much time and energy, and as a result my consciousness continued to expand. Soon after returning to Australia I felt a strong calling within Yoga and Reiki energy, I booked to do Yoga Teacher Training in June 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Reiki Level One attunements were received in February 2015; Level Two in February 2016; and the Masters in October 2017.
Since my first experience in Peru I continue to sit in ceremony with Ayahuasca in various locations throughout my travels around the world, including a return visit to the Amazon. I felt called to return for a deeper experience, a medicinal plant dieta, in Pucallpa, Peru, in October 2015. Letting go, releasing and surrendering took place once again before arriving. I was enjoying the process of becoming aligned with spirit, and having absolute faith and trust in all that was to come. I was discovering that safety is something that doesn’t come from outside of me – safety is within my heart. When I’m following my heart, I feel absolutely connected and supported regardless of where I am and whom I’m with. This doesn’t mean that I’m reckless, irresponsible, or immune to anxious feelings. The awareness of what is real gives me the perspective of “the observer”, I then have a conscious choice as to whether to engage with, or continue observing, based upon whether the feelings are serving me or not. This understanding, and my practice of it, continues to inspire greater transformation. Meeting with powerful Amazonian frog medicine “Kambo” in April 2015 was a significant encounter, and due part of the purging, releasing and alignment process.
Kambo has a range of traditional and potential therapeutic applications, both medical and psycho-spiritual. This medicine is commonly described as “ordeal” and is known for its powerful emetic and purgative effects. Despite its initial unpleasantness, Kambo is widely sought out to revitalise body, mind and spirit.
Soon after receiving and connecting with Kambo medicine, the guidance to return to Peru was incredibly strong, and when the opportunity arrived to participate in the medicinal plant dieta, I knew it was time. I moved out of my house, sold what wasn’t needed, set the property up for rental, closed my contract with Goodlife Health Club, and departed for this overseas journey of self-expansion in June 2015.
After completing Yoga Teacher Training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I journeyed onto Germany and Holland to reconnect with beloved friends and soul family, then onto Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, to work at a surf yoga retreat for a month, and whilst there, complete training in Kundalini Yoga, all before arriving in Lima, Peru, ready to start the medicinal plant dieta in October 2015. It was within this experience that I met Ixcacao, the spirit of Theobroma Cacao (chocolate).
Theobroma is derived from the Greek words ‘theos’ meaning God and ‘broma’ meaning food. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans considered it to be a “gift from the gods”, and valued cacao higher than gold using the seeds for currency. The beans, commonly used to create a rich chocolate drink, have many well-known physical benefits. High quality Ceremonial-Grade Cacao also has many spiritual benefits, and is well known for opening and awakening heart energy, and expanding the awareness and consciousness.
The Spirit of Cacao, Ixcacao, found me not long after my arrival in Lima, Peru, whilst on my way to the Amazon for this medicinal plant dieta. Around 3am that morning, still adjusting from the effects of jet lag, I decided to do some Yoga to pass time before breakfast and my imminent departure to Pucallpa, the doorstep of the Amazonian Rainforest. I’d purchased some Ceremonial-Grade Cacao the previous day, and due to the circumstances this was the only source of food available in my hotel room. I took a few bitter bites of the raw Cacao then proceeded to immerse myself in my Yoga practice. The experience can only be described as, “Heavenly and Blissful” and I didn’t want it to end. Whilst meditating after this profound union of Cacao and Yoga, it became increasingly clear that I needed to share this unique combination’s divine, elevating energy and ethereal experience. The following two weeks I journeyed deeply in the Amazon, while participating in another five sacred Ayahuasca Ceremonies as part of the powerful medicinal plant dieta. A medicinal plant dieta is an incredibly deep experience as these are faced in isolation, silence, and with a very restricted diet of rice, potatoes, plantains, and fish when it’s caught in the Amazon River. In addition to this, all body products, including shampoo, soap, moisturizer etc, are avoided for the duration of the dieta. All of these are replaced with Guayusa and often Ajo Sacha vine leaves. This provides a very clean inner system and energy, which allows for the medicinal plants to establish and integrate throughout the person’s physical and energetic body. The medicinal plants to be ingested, taken in, and integrated, are chosen by the Shaman holding space throughout the dieta, and this is based upon the individual’s intention and purpose. Two medicinal plants were chosen for me – Bobinsana and Puca panga. Along with the five sacred Ayahuasca ceremonies that took place on every second night, I was delivered each day, one litre of prepared medicinal plant juice, and I was to drink this every day throughout the dieta.
This incredibly challenging, lucid, yet profound experience triggered a deeper awakening of my divine self and soul purpose. During the course of the dieta, many prodigious insights were received on how to share and facilitate transformation within myself and others by incorporating the use of sacred plants and traditional wisdom, in order to impart that ancient knowledge forward for all whom wish to deepen their understanding of themselves, and the profound world in which we live. Again, I was very excited about returning to Australia to integrate, share my discoveries, and to create a welcoming, nurturing, loving and sacred space to facilitate the wonderful alchemy of Yoga and Ceremonial Cacao.
Ayahuasca and Ixcacao are both heart awakening medicines, each in their own way brings a deeper alignment with heart and soul. Therefore my relationship with Ixcacao is much like my relationship with Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca “the Mother” is much more direct, however I feel this is what my soul needs and I’m ready to do this deeper inner work. As with any medicine, she’s not for everyone. Ixcacao on the other hand is slightly gentler; she takes you to the doorway, however it’s up to you if you want to walk through. Ixcacao is quite irresistible, she tastes delicious, and is a great alternative for those who desire to experience sacred space and begin a gentle inner journey toward healing and expansion.
I’m grateful for my union with Ixcacao, I enjoy her creative insight and warm-hearted energy. The highest-grade ceremonial cacao I have come across is sourced from Keith and the Cacao Tribe in Guatemala. I felt strongly guided to travel to Guatemala to do some work with Keith, Barbara and Cacao Tribe in May 2017, after doing my Level Two Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica. My intention with visiting Keith was to expand and explore whilst on my mission to master the elements of divine frequency. Amongst all else received, I experienced the level of integrity behind Keith’s work and the production of Keith’s Cacao. Guided by Ixcacao, Keith finds the ancient “grandmother” cacao trees in the wilderness of the jungle. During production and processing each and every cacao bean is hand shelled by the Mayan women, with very little use of machines, clearly a big part of the reason why this cacao retains more of it’s love and valuable spirit energies. This was a delightful journey and truly inspiring connection with Keith. Ever so grateful, I returned to Australia after an additional few months of traveling, very excited to share the energies I had ingested.
The hearts path is what I’ve become aligned and devoted to. My connection with Ayahuasca evolves and matures as she continues to facilitate soul alignment, healing, and the expansion of my understanding of human Self and the Infinite.
Ayahuasca has psychedelic effects, and because of this, some of those who haven’t experienced her, mistakenly believe that this powerful plant medicine is a drug. Sitting with Ayahuasca is certainly not my idea of fun, looking at aspects of self that we normally hide from and avoid, and releasing stuck shadow energy in this way is rarely comfortable. Her purgative effects take place via vomiting, diarrhoea, crying, shaking, sweating etc, and the more pleasant effects can be sighing, yawning and laughter. There is no choice, the call is to surrender and focus on Intention. Ayahuasca has shown me that ‘Intention’ is what differentiates a “medicine” from a “drug”. A medicine’s job is not to show us a good time, but rather show us what we need to see within ourselves for healing and expansion. We don’t always get what the intellectual mind wants, but we do get what the heart needs. No matter what the appearance of what is received it always serves our highest evolution.
The ceremonial aspect is just the beginning, as the work deepens when we journey back into our everyday lives. Equipped with new understanding, we’re then faced with opportunities to clean up aspects of self and re-calibrate life with this newly discovered energy. Ayahuasca does not do the work for us. Ingesting her again too soon without having done the work she has already guided you to do, leads to a divine “telling off”. Not pleasant at all, I highly recommend saving the time, energy, and heartache, by just doing the work, it’s so important to enjoy and embrace the ever so enriching integration process. In liberating Self, we help to liberate others, Mother Earth and the collective.
Plant medicines guided me in opening up channels to other plants, light-souls, ascended masters and archangels. I discovered that this comes with a responsibility, and that is to share all that’s received from a grounded perspective, and it’s a joy to share as I too learn and integrate.
The Amazon brings me into a deep state of surrender. I returned to Pucallpa for another medicinal plant dieta in June 2018. Due to the nature of my lifestyle for the past twenty years, my menstrual cycle became out of balance. I felt the importance of harmonising on all levels, and being in alignment with Mother Earth, Mother Moon and the elementals. I also intended to further explore my voice as an instrument for healing. I connected deeply and intimately with two medicinal plants – Raniquilla and Chuchuhuasi. These master plants and Ayahuasca facilitated many rich understandings within life, including a whole new level of feeling the Universe both matter and energy, Earth and her cycles. The beautiful feminine and masculine combination of these plants also inspired me in playfully exploring my voice as a healing instrument. It was such a unique experience to feel and play with the textures and frequencies of these plant spirits while absorbing Icaros – shamanic plant songs.
I returned again to Australia feeling a new level of connection, compassion and love for the physical body. The soul is spirit and it’s highly intelligent, it heals rapidly and moves onto whatever is next. The physical body however is dense matter and is much slower at healing, it needs the soul to have loving patience while allowing the body to have it’s human experience. This teaching also reminds me to have loving patience with our collective evolutionary process. I have a vision of an ideal world and I also realise that this physical world is moving very slowly, I may not see this ideal world in this lifetime. One breath at a time not all breaths at once. We don’t have to have it all figured out.
Plant medicines have guided me to other supportive and healing modalities including Conscious Sexuality with ISTA (International School of Temple Arts), and Somatic Sexology. These modalities have connected me to the full spectrum of living – from spirit (energy) to matter (primal).
My fascination with spirit and path of ascension soon became a fascination with embodiment and equally delightful path of descension. The path of becoming less through remembering my soul and spirit had me realise the richness and beauty of this human experience. My greatest pleasure is in this human body and embodiment is the highest level of understanding.
My soul purpose evolved into sharing Somatic Sexology, Sexological Bodywork, Intimacy and Relationship Coaching. I was guided to this path for my own embodied healing and re-empowerment through exploring sexuality and relating. Throughout our developmental years most of us have been taught to be silent about sex and intimacy, but yet we’re expected to be fluent and an expert the moment we become an adult. The taboo, lack of education, embodied learnings and communication lead to me feeling pain and discomfort during sexually intimacy, and for many years I avoided intimacy thinking that it wasn’t important. My connection with Ayahuasca had me realise that the stuckness in this area of my life was affecting all other areas of my life, and I needed to experience Somatic practices to re-learn, re-pattern and re-empower myself. I explored this through ISTA, Master Your Pleasure, the Shamanic Womb Journey, studying Somatic Sexology and the Certificate in Sexological Bodywork to become certified to share this work with others. My embodied healing naturally inspired my passion to empower others through sharing this work as I continue to learn as well. I absolutely love empowering people and reconnecting them to the power and pleasure of love and intimacy. I feel that empowering individuals, couples and groups is the substratum to an empowered world.
I have immense gratitude for Ayahuasca and the ever-expanding plant kingdom. These connections have me feel like a student of life, working not for Mother Earth but rather “with” her, all of us, as equal beings riding these incredible waves of life. I continue to see how little I know compared to the boundlessness of what is, and this is incredibly humbling.
My experience of life continues to evolve and expand like an ever-growing kaleidoscope of possibility and potential. I am in love with life, and regardless of challenges or joy I am devoted to following my heart and surrendering to the flow of Universal life force.
Visionary Artist – Alfredo Zagaceta – Peru