"I felt the agony of humankind, its tragedies, its hatreds, its sorrows. I reached the bottom of the tunnel and saw three thrones in a black chamber. Three shadowy figures sat in the chairs; in the middle was what I took to be the devil himself.
"The darkness will never end," he said. "It will never end. You can never escape this place."
"I can," I replied.
All at once, I willed myself to rise. I sailed up through the tunnel of fire, higher and higher until I broke through to a white light. All darkness immediately vanished. My body felt light, at peace. I floated among a beautiful spread of colors and patterns. Slowly my ayahuasca vision faded. I returned to my body, to where I lay in the hut, insects calling from the jungle.
"Welcome back," the shaman said.
The next morning, I discovered the impossible: The severe depression that had ruled my life since childhood had miraculously vanished. "
"Giant blue butterflies flutter clumsily past our canoe. Parrots flee higher into treetops. The deeper we go into the Amazon jungle, the more I realize I can't turn back. It has been a year since my last visit, and I'm here again in Peru traveling down the Río Aucayacu for more shamanistic healing. The truth is, I'm petrified to do it a second time around. But with shamanism—and with the drinking of ayahuasca in particular—I've learned that, for me, the worse the experience, the better the payoff. There is only one requirement for this work: You must be brave. You'll be learning how to save yourself."