An Ugly Lovely Life

I’ll begin my story by introducing myself. My name is Adrian Bennet, I am 46 years old and have been married to my wife Liz for 22 years. We have 3 wonderful children Keziah 11, Ella 9 and Zain 4 months. My wife and I have had many career paths in life and refer to ourselves as autodidacts. We are co-directors of a family business that developes and provides CBD and medicinal mushroom based products, here in Swansea, Wales UK.

Although I wouldn’t have known it as such then, the first experience that I later perceived as psychedelic occurred in my adolescence. There had been a major breakdown in my family when I was 7 years old and shortly after I became the subject of traumatic physical and emotional abuse.  Around the age of 9 or 10, after particularly traumatic family events, I would “wake up” around 3 A.M., but somehow I would not be entirely awake, I would be somewhere else completely, physically conscious but in another world completely, being chased and attacked by the most grotesque caricatures. My very young parents would try to hit me to wake me up, but to no avail. Home became a place of distrust and fear. At the age of 10,  I found myself at the local mental asylum having brain scans and then would spend the next two weeks picking the electrode glue out of my long blond hair while in school. They could find nothing wrong with me.  

As I grew older, I began to leave the house via the window when I felt these episodes coming on and would find myself running and screaming through the streets of our small mining village of Felinfoel, while being attacked by saucers, lasers, monsters and the like. I would run for what seemed like an eternity only to find myself coming around in my underwear 30 minutes or so later with the socks on my feet worn through to my skin. I had no clue about what this could be until around 2 years ago, but I’ll get to that later.

As the abuse continued, I rebelled and became adept in the art of enduring pain. It was normal to hit your kids back then so I said nothing of what was happening. Despite the abuse, I was a caring, empathetic kid, which perhaps originated from a deep seated need to find my own source of love and thus I began to remove all boundaries in the hope of love coming in from the outside. Regular schools couldn’t control my outbursts and so from the ages of 12 to 16 I was placed into the welfare/foster care system. I had an ability to just ace an exam without looking at the subject matter until just before taking it. The answers appeared as ‘pictures’ in my mind and therefore I could never show how I worked things out. Since this was incomprehensible to my teachers, they would accuse me of cheating and would beat me as punishment. I couldn’t win. I now know that this is a symptom of ADHD disorder, and rather than seeing this as a disorder, I prefer to see a beautiful mind, ultimately creative if it’s allowed to express itself.  We are IT!

I spent four years in that state boarding school for the “maladjusted,” as it was referred to then, a school filled with a plethora of children in different states of disrepair. Upon leaving this place, I went into the Royal Navy and six months later was honourably discharged on medical grounds. So, by the time I was 16 ½ I found myself on the streets, shooting intravenously all the barbiturates, speed and you name it that I could find. It led me to prison many times, and “killed” me 3 times. Thankfully, the universe had other plans.

At 22 I became a religious person and was “born again” for the next 20 years. I put my head down and played the good lad. My wife and I went to around four different churches  over the years, but I attended, many, many more on my own in that time. We were so dissatisfied with those that we even started our own church, which survives to this day. Through these years, we also built businesses for us and they afforded us a comfortable lifestyle filled with cars and houses, but despite all this we still felt empty and unfulfilled. While in the church, I wasn’t allowed to express my utter disillusionment with Christianity, its church and with the way I’d been paraded around by Christians as a poster boy for the war on drugs. My disillusion turned into clinical depression and my daily routine was to find reasons not to kill myself, hence the reckless way I spent money as a compensation. To top it off, most Sundays I’d have to put on my suit and speak at this church or that youth camp and the like, while never quite getting the message.

Enough was enough and I decided to end my life.   To this day I can’t explain how I was stopped, but I was and it was like a switch had been flicked. I was on the back end of four hard years of doing iron men triathlons, running a successful construction company, frequently drinking myself into oblivion and still trying to be my best self for my wife and daughters. Even I could see this was unsustainable, so I began to see a therapist (whom I still see) who through Gestalt therapy was finally able to get me to open up for the first time. I had thought the love between my wife and I was gone and we needed to save our marriage, but what I realized was it was my love for myself that needed saving and capturing. It got darker and darker for me as I began to unwind.

I found cannabis helped me to climb out of this, particularly CBD which helped me so much that I eventually found myself living and working on a cannabis farm in southern Oregon. I would work for two weeks at a time here and there and sometimes on a monthly basis, and began setting up our little business. Along the way, I heard about DMT and the thought of it fucking terrified me. Then I heard about ayahuasca, and I couldn’t imagine being in that state for 8-10 hours. No way!! But it got my attention, as did Dr Rick Strassman and his books. I began to see there might be a correlation between my childhood waking night terrors and these experiences. I emailed Dr Strassman and to my surprise he replied within minutes and we conversed over the course of a half dozen messages. It was a great moment for me. He was lovely and very to the point. His advice in the end was “do your own research,” which I did. I really, really did. 

I first heard of these plants and medicines in October of 2018 and by March of 2019, I’d soaked myself in research. All the books and podcasts I could devour.  All the music that would feed my soul. It was like I was being called, I couldn’t explain it. I knew I just had to do this and with the research I lost my fear. I’d lived with that shit all my life. It was an old friend by now and I’d come to learn that there are no bad or good feelings, just feelings and I needed to view them for myself in whatever fashion pacha mama had in store for me. 

So, I took the plunge. I booked a stay at a temple deep in the Amazon jungles of Peru and prepared to partake in seven ayahuasca ceremonies spread over 11 days. I studied more and more writings, I followed the guidance to eat better and generally tried to do all the things they ask of you. What’s the point in going somewhere to experience their expertise and not following the protocol? Makes no sense to me. It never has. I was all in. So, I booked my flights to London then Madrid then Lima to Iquitos and finally found myself deep in the lower Amazon in a longboat with 22 strangers, all bound for the same journey.  Once we arrived at the temple, we were looked after by Shipibo tribal folk and 6 shaman.

When I look back it now, it has to be the plant calling me. There is no doubt in my soul. That’s my perception anyway.

I was carrying a lot of trauma into the ceremonial setting and some would call it a severe case of PTSD.  When I arrived in Iquitos, I thought even my kids didn’t love me. I felt totally alone in this world. I had fallen completely out of love with myself as well.  This is how I began my first ayahuasca journey. I was knocked out like someone had given me an anesthetic, but weirdly I felt ‘operated on’ when I woke. An odd feeling pervaded me all the next day and despite my worry that this wasn’t going to work, I dug deep and continued my preparations for the next session. Oh, how naïve I was. The second night was when the medicine took hold of me and it was mind altering.

The journey began with me drinking a much larger dose of ayahuasca than I was allowed to drink on my first night. It was a rule of the temple. They had their reasons and  there is no doubt to me that these human beings know exactly what they are doing. After imbibing, I went back to my space on my mat and as I lay there, I began to feel this seething, white hot emotion that was impossible to keep in. I started to weep bitterly and the agonizing knot that formed in the pit of my stomach was ugly. It takes a lot to make me vomit, but this feeling was so overpowering that it was too much to bear. I broke, calling Publio (my facilitator and now close friend) over to ask, “What is happening to me? Hold me.” I was utterly terrified and felt like I was literally falling apart as a human.  All he did was smile, that beautiful smile of his and say, “Oh, Adrian” while stroking my head until I purged on his lap, soaking his clothes with the hottest tears I’ve ever leaked. Then the maestro Shamen, six in all, came in singing their Icaros and it was the most eternal sound I’d ever heard. 

A sudden peace came over me, like somebody literally hugged me and laid me down, assuring me “you’re here now, you’re in it, it’s too late to go back, just accept this.” and I did. I lay there staring up into what I can only describe as a cosmological nightmare, with crazy stuff, lots of stuff from which I kept recoiling. Then I heard a voice speak to me without making a sound and it said, “Adrian, why do you always expect all the beauty in your life to come to an end and when it does, you do that? Now look up, it’s beautiful, nothing can hurt you here, LOOK!”   When I looked, I was no more, I was nothing and everything. It was just the most unexplainable view. There was this eternal Forever rock formation crossed with an octopus’ body, nothing had size, it just was, and as I stared bodiless, ripped from who I thought I was, this eye just filled my vision with a blues blue, crystalline colour and it just opened up and communicated to me, “I SEE YOU, YOU NO LONGER NEED TO BE SEEN.” The visuals were so profound and the message so deep, it all made sense in a heartbeat. I don’t remember much after that except landing safely again. I knew my mask had been ripped away and I cried and cried, stopping only to  sit up every time a shaman came to my mat to sing in my face. They needed us to sit up so they could see all the trauma in you and I’d challenge anyone that said they couldn’t. At least once or twice every evening a shaman would suck something from the top of my head and I’d collapse into a heap while the shaman would proceed to vomit into his or her bowl.  Whenever I opened my eyes in this state, the maestros seemed to be in the vision with me. Now it was exactly what I thought it would be: magic, black, white, blue, pink, who gave a fuck, these people were helping to heal 23 westerners and it was working. I video blogged every evening, to make sure I remembered what I had learned, and while some are still a little difficult to watch, the one I made after this evening was especially so.  

Each ceremony peeled a layer of myself away that I’d been holding onto as security and once the veil was dropped,  I saw the beauty in myself and in everyone around me.  The connection was otherworldly.

There was an evening toward the end, the sixth ceremony in fact, where all my passive rage and pent up emotions came to the surface and the medicine took me on a ride I’d never expected. It began during the day, where for some reason, people began to say weird, unpleasant things to me. I arrived at the ceremony really confused, and while we weren’t supposed to vent on anyone, for some reason that day people did. It was odd at the time, but in hindsight it wasn’t anything new, it wasn’t good or bad, it was just interactions and this day was my day to realize once again how naïve I’d been. 

Up until this point, I’d done five ceremonies, and they had been all gentle and namaste. I remember actually saying to my now great friend Farid, that I didn’t think I needed the last two ceremonies, I was ready to leave. As a result, I arrived angry as fuck.  Sitting in between the two people that I felt most aggrieved by, I blindly smashed as much medicine as I could into my mouth. I was angry, in a “Fuckin come on then!” sort of way. What made matters worse was I was now really angry at myself for allowing this to happen. I became really intoxicated and the whole place was going off. This was ceremony number six, so we had 138 experiences between us up to that point, and had 120 Icaros sung to us. My anger took over and I began screaming, “You fuckin pussy, you allow women to walk over you? etc etc etc.” I shook uncontrollably, as if taken over and began to seriously beat my face and body with my fists. I started biting myself and hating how weak I’d been, after all I was a fuckin lion, how dare I be weak? I knocked 3 teeth out, but don’t worry, they were all mine. Of the 23 of us in the temple, I was the only one this was happening to. They told me later, it’s not a regular thing, it’s more my process. I was being shown what I was doing to myself internally while all the while having my ego revealed to me. I was being shown all the women that had hurt me, especially my mother, like a flushing out. The visuals here were fast and hard. Hurtful. Publio was coming over to me, worried and asking me to calm down, but by now I think I realized what was going on. When mother ayahuasca carries you away,  you’re able to almost relax into the terror with a distinct knowledge that it’s all going to be ok, a sort of perception that makes sense to me now. There is this separate connection. I said to Publio, “Don’t worry, it’s my process, this is my cage, I’m a fuckin’ lion Publio, I’m a fucking lion!” And I was. Whether it was the fact that I’m a Leo and I know the lion connection or whatever, I’d become a human lion, beautiful, glistening, golden, powerful. Down on my haunches, growling, snarling, snapping at the air. I was smelling everyone and taking my power back.

Then I remembered a vision I’d had a couple of nights earlier. I was holding my unborn son, Zain, and in a flash it hit me, that was you Ade. That was the inner child you came here to find. You expected to find a 7 year old boy, but this was a beautiful Gollum, silver, unborn baby with blue black holes for eyes, eyes that had the cosmos beyond them. I stripped myself naked and sat there nursing myself like a mad man. I just couldn’t bring the vision back.  “Why show me this now? Why spoil it?” I thought and I began to aggressively try to go inside myself and fetch him. I felt it was absolutely possible to enter into myself, that I had been completely separated from mind. It was almost controllable, but completely frustrating. I was alternately shouting, then whispering and at one point I let out a roar out that sounded like it came from another world and was so loud JJ the facilitator heard it from 1 km away.   

Within seconds, I was being schooled again by that inner voice. “You can’t swear at a baby, Ade. You can’t talk to yourself like that anymore. It’s what’s going to kill you. This part of you was locked away in the womb. You’ve now lived half a life and this half of you is almost dead. Be nice, be gentle.” Then I was in my arms, me as a baby. I cried, wept mightily and danced with me. It was so special, I’m crying now as I write this. It was a glorious merging of myself. I was dancing in front of the entire Moloka, as naked as the day I was born. I’d had terrible body complex issues all my life but now, nah, no more.  This was a freedom like I’d never thought could exist. Utter and complete abandon. 

At certain points I would see someone that had hurt us/me and they would simply disappear. My vision would get difficult and I was being taught that they could not hurt me anymore. It’s gone, it’s done. It was like I shut a door on all of my past. I was standing on my 2 foot by 6 foot by 2 inch thick mattress, acting out my entire life, past, present and future, and it went dark and closed. I looked the other way and there was a complete garden of hallucinations. I went in and I was seduced by the most beautiful, green, big cats, they just were all over me. Then I was in a golden temple, swirling with colours I’ve never seen before. Jesus was there, along with every god and myth I had ever known, they were in my heart, my stomach… it was a complete destruction of conscious reality. I was exploding into crystalline shards with a myriad of what I can only call colours, but I have no words to do them justice.  It was so loud and yer silent, so big and yet small, all at once: duality had disappeared. I was one with everyone, everything and I knew I’d never be the same again. I collapsed on my matt, exhausted, the reverie had ended but I had yet to return. “Laura is waiting to put you back together, Adrian,” someone said. I knelt in front of this beautiful goddess and she sang the most powerful Icaro. I was beating a drumbeat on the floor and she joined me. This wasn’t practice but we were both in it, together, eternal in that moment. I was a big cat, exerting his power over the woman in front of me. She got it. She felt safe. I placed my ear less than 2 centimeters from her mouth at times, so I could absorb every note of her song into my depths.  I found my arms outstretched involuntarily and two small lights appeared in each hand. As I tried to close my hands together the lights got brighter and it was the hardest physical thing I’d ever had to do. But on I pushed and knew that by closing my hands I would complete the merging. As dramatic and insane as it sounds, it made perfect sense to me in that moment and that’s all that mattered. I closed my hands, screaming “MERGE!” and collapsed.  I was able to lift my head and I saw the a giant and incredibly beautiful lion’s head, its mouth open with rings of light disappearing down its throat and a shadow figure with something under its arm standing in the mouth and looking back at me.  The shadow turned, walked into the mouth and it ended. Exhausted and spent, I lay there naked.  Urias, the head shaman, came and soaked me with liquor from his mouth, spitting it on me as he had during the ceremony. This was a seal from him. It felt that way.  As I drifted into sleep, all I remember thinking was “I knew it would work,” over and over like a mantra. 

I blasted off that night. I was no longer me. I was no longer anything but a kaleidoscope of colours,  explosions of light with an overwhelming connection to spirit. It was silence, but deafening, a sensory experience without my senses. I felt it then and even now I still feel connected to a oneness that we all have together, a oneness separated from us by a huge bridge of the pain and so few of us realize it. Every ayahausca ceremony gave me a three part experience:  the exposure of my ego, a gentle, silent, painful place to view it and almost always, a healing euphoric end. 

My life since (only 8 months ago) has been a revelation. The dynamic with my wife and kids has been transformed. We talk, communicate, love deeply and have so much more collective strength. We had a challenge to respond to in November, when we discovered that Zain was trisomy-21 baby. Our response, as a family unit and individually, has been profoundly different from how it would have been pre-Peru.  I see that self-love is the key if you want to bring about any change in the world.  Self-love is the first step to  change our environment. 

The way I connect with my clients at the dispensary, especially those suffering with mental issues, has been amazing and the there seems to be a conscious community forming. People really are searching. I get paid to do what I love, it is my bliss. We are about to launch a podcast on consciousness and have events in the city planned. It is an exciting time.

The hardest part of the journey so far has been the integration with my life. Coming to terms with my “mutant” state. We have left the church behind, its life, its concepts, its ways of teaching and, if I had to say, its Gnosis. When my veil was taken away it became clear that the Church had collectively messed it up.  I had been part of an organisation that now thinks I’m fucked, a backslider, hell-bound,  seven times worse than when I started. That attitiude has not embittered me, I’m just sad for the blindness I had and for the many friends or mine that remain blind, trapped and hypnotised by it all. It seems so obvious to me now. I love the myth and I can’t reject the construct, but our lives seem to be destined to do some small thing to begin to lift that veil. I still use psychedelics, only from nature and sensibly, I like to think. I microdose with psilocybin in a stack format and will return to ayahuasca again, possibly in the next month or two in a ceremonial setting. Now, I try to have an intention when approaching any psychedelic and I find it very important for me to focus on that. It’s something I work up to and I’m constantly continuing my research. Maintaining my relationship with my therapist has been a great decision, not just for these issues, but because it provides a type of framework for the work we do with patients at the dispensary and guides how we handle their issues and their worst fears. Therapy is good and brave.

I perceive a time of awakening is coming. The one thing psychedelics showed me is that just being alive is the most powerful trip already. As Alan Watts put it, “Am I a psychotic pretending to be sane?” With all our preaching, wrangling, wars, business and our profound amnesia as a species, not one of us really knows what’s going on. But I know, for the first time in this life that I’m enjoying the great dance of the universe. As much as I’d love to move to the forest with my family and never come out, I feel a purpose here. I want to be part of something great, something powerful. For that, I will forever be indebted to the indigenous people of the Shipibo tribe, the Amazon and the entirety of South America for the work they do and the love they show us, despite our horrible history. They are a forgiving people.  IRAKU!   

Lastly, thank you for reading this to the end.  x

Follow Adrian on instagram @the_upper_shroom

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