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  • Writer's pictureDavid Sutcliffe


There’s often a moment in an ayahuasca ceremony when the intensity of the experience is so strong I'm not sure I can take it. An internal pressure builds across my shoulders and back; it feels like my body is about to break apart, that I’m going to lose control and spiral into madness. It’s deeply uncomfortable. And there’s no way out of it.

I’ve been getting that feeling in my regular life the last few weeks. The current state of the world has felt overwhelming to me  — the unending lockdown, an election approaching, ongoing protests and riots in the streets, and what feels like a cultural civil war. The country is in chaos, and there’s no relief in sight. 

Even when I turn off the news and stay away from social media, I can’t entirely shake the feeling. It scares me. 

What I’ve learned from ceremony is to surrender to the discomfort, to die into it, to give over to the feeling, to allow whatever is happening. Any attempt to resist or control just leads to more unease and suffering. 

Surrender is letting go. Trusting. Saying yes to life, yes to flow, yes to the mystery.

It’s also a willingness to feel whatever is inside us.

Our resistance to surrender is resistance to feeling. So when we resist, when the pressure builds, the question to ask ourselves is, “what is it I’m unwilling to feel?” 

When I asked myself that question the other day, the answer was grief.

The world is changing. I am changing. But there’s a part of me still holding onto the past, to what I know, to what's familiar. There’s a loss I don’t want to feel — the death of an old self, an old way of being. And dreams (that were probably fantasies) that never came true. 

We can never go back. There's no fixing the past. We cannot make up for what we didn’t get. We must accept what happened, grieve the loss, move forward, and create anew. 

This is what life is asking of me right now (and I suspect many of you).

The anger and frustration, the blame and judgment, are expressions of the resistance to feeling our pain. 

To get through this moment we must trust it. Have faith. There's an intelligence at work beyond what our rational mind can comprehend.

The work now is to stay grounded. To be willing to feel. To accept the chaos while building the internal structure to tolerate it. I do this through my daily practice — meditation, journaling, exercise, breathwork, and affirmations. 

And when the intensity of life feels overwhelming, I lay down and pray. I give it to God. I surrender. 

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