Updated: Oct 5, 2022
I lived in fear for most of my life. Fear of public speaking, fear of what others think, fear of change, fear of failing, fear of success - there is even fear in sharing this post. I’ve worked through many of my fears over the years since starting my healing journey, but I wasn’t aware of how much my fears controlled me until I started doing breathwork regularly. And then I found a special toad.
In January of 2020 I had just come full circle on a year-long breathwork facilitator course. It was a transformational year for me. I was about to turn forty at the end of the month and I made a resolution not to live in fear anymore. Eleven days after my fortieth birthday, I stepped into that fear and partook in a private Bufo ceremony. Bufo or Sapo is the medicine from the Sonoran Desert toad (Bufo Alvarius). The toad secretes a venom from its glands that contain 5-MeO-DMT and 5-HO-DMT, two substances known for their entheogenic properties. These compounds are naturally occurring and can be found in several plant species. I had done my research, but knew nothing could prepare me for what I would experience - it frightened me. I mentally prepared for days, prepared to die, but not my physical body - perhaps my ego or something else.
* * *
The healer wearing all white with a red cloth belt opened the door and invited me into her space with a warm hug. Her presence was very loving and eased my anxiety. She welcomed me in and walked me to the room for the healing ceremony. It was simple and cozy with colorful blankets and pillows laid out on the floor for me to sit on.
She poured oil on my hands and told me to rub this on my feet and anywhere else I wanted healing. I rubbed it into my chest, around my neck and lower back. She handed me the glass pipe with the dried toad medicine. I held it with my hands in a prayer position. She then had me recite a prayer asking forgiveness for those who I’ve hurt and to forgive those who have hurt me, releasing that energy back to the universe, and to be reborn. The weight of what I was about to embark on fell heavy on me at that moment. I was fearful, but ready.
She held a flame to the pipe and the vapor began to grow inside the glass.
“Breath in long and slow. Count to seventeen”, she said.
I breathed in the surprisingly smooth vapor, closed my eyes, and laid back on the cushioned floor.
The healer encouraged me, “Just relax. The medicine is working.”
Her voice and her presence had a different quality to it.
I could feel the medicine integrating into my body like anesthesia - an odd sensation but also strangely familiar. As my body relaxed into the experience I could only see the dark behind my closed eyelids. The dark rapidly became darker, dissolving into further darkness, and that darkness evaporating into deeper darkness - until there was absolutely nothing. A black, cold, silent void of nothingness. It was unbearably sad and I wept painful tears at the loss of everything.
And then… from the dark nothingness emerged the oneness of everything. It grew inside me. It was infinite and eternal - the infinite and eternal love that is the universe. My heart grew. My smile grew. My fears, doubts, and worries dissolved. I laughed at the memory of them. I knew that everything is eternal love and everything is perfect and that’s just the way it is. It was so simple and all I could do was laugh.
I opened my eyes and the healer was sitting in the corner of the room. She looked back at me with a smile, closed her eyes and nodded. In that moment there was a silent understanding that she knew that I knew, and I knew that she knew. That moment felt like ultimate freedom. I sat up and laughed at how free I felt. It was wonderful. And then… it was gone.
The woman unexpectedly offered me the medicine again. I could feel the anxiety wrap around my chest like black knobby roots squeezing me from behind. I gathered myself and slowly inhaled from the pipe again. I laid back on the floor.
“It’s not working.” I thought. “I’m doing it wrong. Nothing’s happening. I lost it.”
Negative thoughts, worries, doubts and fear began to spiral through my mind. The panic started to grow. The woman came to my side. She knew I was struggling. She placed a warm, gentle hand on my chest.
“Relax.” She said. “Remember to breathe. Breath is life.”
I breathed deep, but still struggled to relax.
She gently tapped my chest and said, “Truuust. Truuuust. Trust in your heart. Remember to breathe. Breathe and you are alive.”
I breathed deep full breaths into my chest, into my heart. I knew how to do this. I had been doing breathwork everyday for the past year. I could feel the eternal love of the universe grow in my heart again. It was a bright pale blue glowing light.
“Yes!” She said, “You are REMEMBERING.”
The feeling of love burst inside and overcame me again. I cried a deep cry.
The woman acknowledged the release, “You are healing. That energy does not belong to you anymore.”
I felt such joy remembering the feeling of the universe inside me. I felt free again. I felt joy. I laid there happy to be alive, happy to breathe.
This was not a psychedelic experience. This was a spiritual experience. I am truly grateful for it. Who knew that one could experience the entire universe within minutes in a small New York apartment?!
I felt so much ease in my life after that experience. Life isn’t perfect. I still have to do my taxes. I still have to go to work. I still feel fear. I still feel sadness. But these are not problems. They are just things to do, things to feel. So I live and I do them and I feel them - they are my choices. I am so much more aware now. I can feel when fear, doubt, and judgment of others creep in around my heart - I can feel the tightness in my chest. Then I remember to breathe and I REMEMBER.
* * *
I still feel fear. It may always be there but now that I am aware of it, it doesn’t control me anymore. I see it and step into it. It’s a useful tool. I don’t hide from the things that I fear the way I used to. I recognize them as opportunities to grow, to change and to expand.
It’s no surprise that six months after my toad experience, I found the courage to leave the security of my six-figure job and move away from New York, the place I called home for nearly my entire life. This experience helped me embrace this change. Change and the unknown can be scary, but it can also be beautiful and joyful in ways unimagined. Do the things that frighten you, do the things that excite you. Let yourself be vulnerable, let yourself experience the unknown. See what is on the other side.