Last minute Jitters

There was a time in my life when I wasn’t harnessed to medications or bothered by my health. Yet, in some ways, little has changed since my youth. I am still the same person with a zest for life and a curiosity that, on occasion, drove me to risk life and limb on a whim. I no longer feel invulnerable but I am still willing to act with recklessness in order to gain validation. My recklessness now, however, is more calculated and the validation that I seek is more personal.

I seek no one’s approval nor do I hold any expectation, except perhaps to find my own place in an indifferent world. I have had to make my own way in life and somewhere along the line I bought into Canadian version of the American dream. In the world that I know the meaning of life is rooted more in social conditioning, status and biological urges than in spiritual growth or pursuit of a higher consciousness. The virtue of my life is relatively meaningless. I was raised in an educational and religious preparatory system that made me a willing and unthinking producer/consumer.

Other parts of the world this understanding of purpose is reversed. In such cases my lack of spirituality is scorned as a wasted life. Such derision is difficult to defend, especially for Westerners, as the virtues of our materialism and power are readily dismissed as mere distractions and folly.

The fearlessness of my youth inspires me to face old age with bravado

My medication has been working fine after years of adjustments and refinements. I don’t want to put my system under any unnecessary pressure that might upset the balance that I have struggled to achieve. The mere thought of doing anything that would possibly harm my health is upsetting. Yet, I know that taking Ayahuasca will mean that I must. The older that I’ve become, the higher the stakes have become.

There is a line, however, for me. I am prepared to give up my journey if and when I feel that a psychedelic experience would negatively impact my life or the lives of my loved ones. Despite such deep convictions I often fine that this line can become a high-wire balancing act for me. I am equally compelled by my belief that we are all alone, in life and death, and that this is my journey.

I don’t know for certain that stopping my Blood medication could impact my health. My doctor and pharmacist couldn’t say one way or the other. Maybe I will be able to tolerate the stoppage. Admittedly nothing bad happened when I abstained from Metoprolol Tartrate (75mg x 2 p/day) for two half dosage days and three full dosage days. Maybe my dilemma rests within myself and my persistent worry that I am overly optimistic about my own state of my health.

Every time I visit a doctor I feel like a gambler, who knows that one day his luck will run out. 

I am not as strong as I like to think that I am. I know that, at my age, my drive to undertake this psychedelic journey is uncommon. Mostly, nearly 70 year olds are focused on becoming 70 years old. Yet, I believe that exploring my fears is a way to ensure that my personal growth never stops and that I continue to have a quality life.

From this perspective, being normal is not that attractive. Whether or not it is normal for a nearly 70 year old to tamper with the balancing act being performed by his medication after 30 years of refinements and find-tuning doesn’t mean much to me. In fact, I have come to see stopping my medication as just another cost for my journey.

I feel like I am healthy, not just for a 70 year old but when compared to any age group above 50. I know this because since retiring in 2001 I have had a partner who I have come to value as my health and spiritual guru. She has opened my eyes to see an alternative to the pursuit of status quo and ego gratification. She has lit the fuse which has awakened me. It has given me the courage to try another path in life, one that was largely inside me but beyond my imagination, my conditioning to see as a viable lifestyle. Nonetheless, she is not comfortable with my journey or the dangers it presents.

I never spent much time in self-reflection or investing in my inner journey.  I don’t know if I know my self. I suspect that I don’t. Likely my unconscious state knows deeply buried secrets of my conscious state. I don’t believe that I have such wounds but I also know that I have been conditioned by my culture and society without knowing consciously that I was being conditioned.

I had no role models except what I could see in my world. I never saw alternative paths in life as worthy. My parents, my siblings were all to busy with their own lives to mentor or guide me through my turbulent times. Instead, I turned to education, to my passions and I bought into what I felt would make me happy. I pursued the American-Canadian dream one step up the ladder at a time. I never thought outside the box. So, I guess, my Journey is all about second chances and maybe a little bit about redemption.

I now believe that not pursuing this experience would be one of my greatest regrets.

If I am a gambler thinking that my luck has run out then it wouldn’t be a stretch for me to also think that it wasn’t luck that has kept me in the game. I have always had a more or less healthy lifestyle so maybe my good health is a reasonable expectation. I do know, however, I now have the courage to connect with my inner self. If I don’t take a calculated risk now I will likely always feel that I have failed my own inner imperative, my own journey of inner awareness and consciousness. 

While I accept responsibility for my own beliefs and actions I am also thankful for my adult son, who first inspired me on this journey with his own experiences with Ayahuasca. His journey of self discovery and honesty not only answered the question of how I was going to celebrate my 70th birthday but also encouraged me to undertake a year or so of consuming the literature that I felt compelled to absorb. During this time I was drawn to books such as Realms Of The Human Unconscious by Stanislav Grof and How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. I was also guided by the experience and compassion of a growing community.  

My fears sometimes make it difficult for me to let go of control and stop over-thinking

First, a Canadian flight to Florida caught my attention. It was the same airline, similar route as what I would take going to my Ayahuasca ceremony. Despite a few minor injuries as the potential for a more serious incident was averted by the competent flight crew. Nonetheless, it must have been a traumatizing experience. The plane made an emergency landing in New Jersey. The emergency chute was used to exit the plane. The passengers were given a $200 travel credit to compensate for the delay and likely to also avoid a class action law suit.

Given the impact of a lengthy delay associated with arranging another plane and crew to travel from Canada $200 seems like a minimal gesture, especially for a corporation with revenue in the billions. This gesture reminds me how far the experience of flying has fallen for the average person since commercial flights were once offered as a glamorous way to travel for average travellers.

When I learnt that another Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed I was concerned as I knew that my aircraft was also a Boeing 737. Next day, however, I discovered, that although the Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737 Max 8 were in the same family of airplane, they had different operating set-ups and effectively were different planes. Bowing, another lucrative corporation, cut corners on flight training and didn’t act on the design problems associated with the aircraft – actions calculated to save money but that cost many lives and the airline’s reputation. The thought of flying a Boeing aircraft knowing this company didn’t act in the best interests of its passengers made flying, for me, a bit more of an act of faith. 

The last news piece that caught my attention during this time of indecision was the misfortune of Paul Manafort, who after years of investigations and two trials, was sentenced to 7.5 years for corruption. He is my age, soon to be 70, and about to lose his last years of freedom. He has a wife and family that will be deeply impacted by his decisions. Manafort’s plight could also be my fate if my psychedelic experience results in a life-disabling cardiac event or a stroke. If I ended up on life-support I would end up in my own prison. Being unconscious or losing my independence would deprive me of the life as I treasure it today.

With this clarity I had the best sleep in a week of poor sleep.

When I awake my wife, tells me that she wants to talk with me. I am still half asleep but the seriousness of her manner quickly awakens me. She is concerned that the Ayahuasca ceremony will adversely affect my health. I sit up as she briefly pauses while my mind races. If I require treatment, she continues, then an American Hospital will likely disallow my travel insurance as a simple blood test would show that I was under the influence of Ayahuasca. 

Her concern was important to me. I knew that the facility was prepared and that it was located in a modern, Western city that offered speedy and competent emergency treatment. Nonetheless, I reached out to my contact. I knew that my partner is impacted by the consequences of my decisions and felt strongly that her concerns needed to be addressed. For me, this is implicit when in a loving relationship. 

The facility contact is someone that I respect. He opened to me about his personal life and didn’t dismiss my fears or my partner’s concerns. I was pleased to know that the staff where all trained in CPR and that an EMT facility was within 4 miles. I felt relieved when he informed me that Ayahuasca use doesn’t leave any trace in the blood stream as the chemicals already exist in each of our bodies. The reassurance was welcomed as was his plans to measure my BP before and during the ceremony. This safeguard, along with the preparedness of the staff, provided invaluable comfort for me and my partner. It also made me even more committed to this experience.

I briefly chatted with my eldest son, who is a pilot, later in the day. He does not flying the MAX 8, nor is it especially concerned with the aircraft now that all airlines are no longer flying the 737 Max 8. He has every confidence that the issue would be addressed and personnel trained before the aircraft resumes service. I told him about the specifics of my upcoming psychedelic experience. As it turns out we will both be in the same American city during my scheduled Ayahuasca retreat. What synchronicity. He will be busy but maybe we will be able to connect for a meal or two. The thought gave me comfort. Maybe it was a sign that this is the right thing to do. 

Time for me to let go of my fears

Two days of half-dosage, two days of no Blood Pressure medication and no side effects. My BP readings never exceeded the systolic rate of 160 or the diastolic rate of 100. I didn’t push it into the third day of abstinence as my measurements were already occasionally at Stage 2 hypertension. I felt that I could continue I didn’t want to get lulled into a false comfort. I felt pushing it for another day or so was unnecessary and, perhaps, counter-productive.

Now I have the confidence that I need. My flying jitters are not statistically justifiable. It also helps knowing first hand the training regiment and professionalism of the dedicated pilots. My fears of having a cardiac event has been pushed aside. I now believe that my body will tolerate no blood pressure medication for a few days. My wife’s reservations have been addressed. She understands that this situation is the best possible scenario for me. Everything has lined up in a way that now I know that I will be alright.

I can now reframe my outlook and open myself up to the experience. I am now prepared to let go of my fears and anxieties and to embrace the uncertainty of whatever awaits me. I no longer have any expectations except to participate fully. The rest is out of my hands as long as I let go of control and stop over-thinking. Piece of cake.

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