Should I Namaste or Should I Namastgo

Blog post written by: Casey Ruth

November 1, 2019


Traveling is one thing in life that you can spend money on and be richer for it. It’s an investment in self improvement and gives you an education that can not be provided in any academic institution. You are different. The place you call home is foreign upon your return by its unfamiliarity, except it’s exactly the same as the day you left it and it is you that has changed.

Those familiar to you have become strangers and the strangers you met have become a part of you. You can relate to them. You see the world through the same eyes, even though you come from opposite sides of it.

You begin to feel uncomfortable in your own habitat; a fish that’s allergic to water and you begin to wonder if returning was the right decision. “Home” no longer has a sense of belonging to you and you feel more lost there than you did on your own in any Asian city for the first time. It seems gray and unattractive and it’s not because you have grown accustomed to oceans that resemble Powerade, or that you are ungrateful, but that you are used to a new way of life.

You are used to the fast traffic of Vietnam or the hustle and bustle of another buzzing capital, but at the same time, the fast paced lifestyle is no longer appealing. You can win the rat race, but at the end of the day, you’d still be a rat and you much prefer to end the day with a pink sunset and cotton candy clouds as opposed to a full bank account and an empty heart.

You realize that you are homesick for a place that doesn’t exist.


Leaving your home town is a life changing decision and traveling solo makes you realize just how capable and responsible you are not only for your sleeping, eating and travel arrangements, but for well being and your own happiness. It is a dangerous tautology to appreciate your own solitude, as there is no longer an urge to seek validation nor fill a void.

This provides invincibility, as you do not NEED anyone and no longer spend your time searching for a significant other. You are already complete. Why would you be impressed by a guy who is going to offer you the world when you’ve already seen it all? Love is complex. It will take something more breathtaking than a waterfall to willingly sacrifice your independence when you have fallen in love with life.

If someone enters your life that makes you consider staying in one place, this could be your biggest adventure yet. 

The cliche of girls “finding themselves” whilst globetrotting is not quite a cliche at all, it’s an ideology, it’s a pilgrimage. And it’s not that we’re running away from something, it’s about what we’re running towards. Something incredible, something unfathomable, and we know it even when others can not see it, let alone comprehend it.

We feel it vibrating beneath our tanned skin and sun soaked bones. That’s why we take these risks and leave behind our lives in the knowledge that something amazing could happen if we just say yes.

Home is not a building, it is a feeling. It is not a place, to some it may be a person. To find it, you need to ask yourself, does he smell like home or is it time to hit the road? Are you going to Namaste or are you going to Namastgo?



Casey currently lives in Newcastle and spends most of her time traveling, likely to somewhere with white sandy beaches, a homemade bottle of rice wine, and crystal clear ocean water.

I met Casey while I was on the beach by myself on a small deserted island in Malaysia. She walked right up to me, sat down, and we ended up spending the next three weeks traveling across the magnificent island of Borneo together. She has a pure, loving heart and an inspiring, positive energy. The best thing about Casey is that when you are with her, you will often end up somewhere you never even imagined was possible.


Why I Am Not Going To Write About My Ayahuasca Experience

As I write this, I am sitting in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador on the fourth day of my five day ayahuasca retreat. I have done ayahuasca the last two nights but this is a new experience for me. Before coming here, I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t remember the first time I heard about ayahuasca, but I know it has been on my radar for at least a few years. For those of you who aren’t exactly sure what it is, here is a brief overview.

Ayahuasca – meaning ‘spirit vine’ in Native South American Quechua languages – is a foul-tasting hallucinogenic brew that has been used for centuries by rain forest shamans as a religious sacrament. The infusion facilitates mystical visions and revelations, and is said to have healing properties.”

Mystical revelations? Healing? Ummm yes, please. So I started to read more about it. If you Google ‘ayahuasca experience’ you will find countless stories from others who have taken this plant medicine and what their experience was like. While their stories were all unique regarding the realizations they had about their lives, they all had similar aspects to them. Throwing up violently for the first hour, followed by a feeling of bliss.

Also having intense visions during their trip while receiving clear messages about their life path. Life changing revelations where you clearly understand your purpose. What you are supposed to do in life. What you could be doing better. That make you realize what is really important. Be more patient with your family. Appreciate your girlfriend more. Follow your dreams in search of a new career. 


While the later sounds soothing for the soul, the former parts of this experience honestly scared the shit out of me. I have taken LSD, MDMA, shrooms in the past but have never really had any intense hallucinations. I also dislike throwing up more than almost anything in the world. Even so much that I almost didn’t come on this retreat. I certainly do not want to throw up ‘violently’ for an hour even if it is followed by a feeling of intense love.

Because of the getting sick part, I initially decided it wasn’t for me. I have been there after a night of drinking. Laying in bed when your head starts spinning. All of the sudden getting incredibly hot. Breathing deeply in and out of your mouth, trying to talk yourself into not purging. That feeling of nausea is not one I want to willingly put myself through. 

But then one day after booking my trip to Ecuador, I said to myself, “Fuck it.” I am all about putting myself through new experiences. Especially ones that scare me. If others can handle it, so can I. So after spending quite some time researching places to do it, I finally decided on one. I signed up and paid my deposit before I could talk myself out of it.


Feather Crown Ayahuasca retreat center

When picking a place there were a few major things on my mind. I didn’t want to have a touristy experience, I wanted something as authentic as possible. With a shaman. In the middle of the jungle. If I was going to get sick, I at least wanted to be throwing up out of control while surrounded by beautiful nature.

I also wanted to make sure the place I went had a good reputation. There are stories of shamans taking advantage of women under the influence. Stories of people getting hurt because they weren’t properly supervised. For that reason, it was important for me to find a place whose main motivation was helping people. Not making money. And the size of the group was important to me. If something went wrong, I wanted to make sure someone noticed right away.

This is how I found Feather Crown


Fast forward a few months later. It is the night before my retreat and I am sitting in bed reading a few last stories. I read one about a guy who took too much. He is laying there and all of the sudden has the feeling like, “Get me the fuck out of here.” He gets up and runs out of the temple and through the jungle by himself. Freaking out about feeling like he is stuck in a concentration camp. He finally comes back to the camp, rips off all of his clothes and jumps in the shower. After the staff talking him down, he finally returns to the group.

Okay, I am scared. I don’t want to freak out and end up getting eaten by an anaconda or something. I also search for “ayahuasca deaths” and see that there have been a few. But the more I read, I realize this was not from the ayahuasca itself but from lack of care during the experience. People mixing other substances or freaking out and hurting another participant. 

I also start to wonder what kind of realizations I will have. Will I wake up to realize I have been sabotaging all of my relationships? What will Mother Ayahuasca tell me about my life? I am happy but I do want answers. What is next for me? Will I ever meet someone I want to be in a relationship with? Where should I live when I am done traveling? What should I do to make money? These are most of the unanswered questions I have going through my head at this point in my life.


This is Don Carlos, the incredibly sweet shaman who led our ayahuasca experience.

I get to the retreat. The one I signed up for consists of two consecutive nights taking ayahuasca. The first night has come and I am extremely nervous. I really do not feel like throwing up for the next hour. But my name is called. I walk up to the shaman and down about 3/4 of a shot glass of ayahuasca. No turning back now. I return to my mattress on the floor and sit there in the dark and just wait. Wait for the feeling of sickness to overcome my body so that I can throw up for the next hour and get to the good part.

But it never happens. Well believe me, I do get sick. But not like they said I would in the stories I read. I was told it would come right away so I was sitting there waiting for it. Expecting it. And therefore, sort of resisting it instead of just letting it happen. I did end up getting sick, a lot. And often. But it didn’t happen in the first hour at all. Instead, I got sick near the end of my trip. I think I was holding back, actively trying to relax and not get sick. It was all I could think about for that first hour.

As I was laying there, I was also actively waiting for revelations to come to me. For the ayahuasca to speak to me and show me the answers I needed. But they never came. I did see, hear, and feel many things (the ayahuasca was definitely working) but it wasn’t how others described it to be.

I woke up the next morning feeling slightly disappointed. I certainly tripped but why didn’t I have any clear answers? How come everyone else I read about did and I didn’t? I also didn’t get as sick as I had anticipated.

I walked around all day feeling like there were still bad feelings stuck inside of me. Not just the disappointment, but also a feeling of anxiety. Last night was rough, I had no realizations, and I have to do it again tonight. Ugh, not looking forward to it. Why put myself through the physical discomfort if there isn’t a tradeoff to receive clear insight?


A bottle of ayahuasca with other supplies used during the ceremony.

Before my second trip, I thought a lot about it and I really believe my expectations had kept me from just riding the wave and having my own experience. So I set an intention to just go with the flow and see what happens. To let the ayahuasca give me whatever it is I needed, without judgement.

And she sure did. I won’t go into what I experienced, but I will say that I didn’t have many thoughts that night at all. Only visions and feelings. No answers. But maybe I didn’t need them. Maybe I already knew the answers all along and the ayahuasca was just there to remove all of the internal obstacles I had blocking me from seeing them. Because deep down, don’t we all actually kind of know what is best for us?

A good friend once told me, “If you are asking the question, you already know the answer.” This is advice that I have always kept close to my heart. I believe this is absolutely true. While you may not know right away, you can discover the answer by removing the fear, the self doubt, the self sabotaging protective tendencies. Until you are back at the root. Your instinct. Our bodies and minds are constantly working to protect us. But I believe our souls always know the way.


I woke up this morning after my second ayahuasca trip and immediately smiled. I felt wonderful. Like I had let go of so many things I had been holding on to that may have been keeping me from embracing my path.

Sitting here thinking about it, I realize that even though my experience was nothing like any of those I had read about, it was exactly what I needed. It was a two night process of letting go of my demons. Clearing away the negative energy. Healing and falling in love with myself all over again. It made me face everything blocking me from what I already knew. The truth. It took me two days to let go. But I finally was able to. And it feels so great.


Looking back, if I could change one thing, it would be to not hold on so much to the stories of others. Instead, I would just sit back and believe that I would receive exactly what I needed. And I think this is good advice to follow for life in general. Comparing yourself to others always distracts you from your own journey.

When you take medicine, you don’t sit there and actively tell it where to go inside your body. You trust it to know where you are hurting and heal you. It is exactly the same with ayahuasca. After you take it, you just need to trust it and let it work its magic.

If you are planning on experiencing it for yourself, you can listen to the stories of others if you want to, but know that your experience will likely be unlike anything you have heard about. You might be sick the first hour or even the entire time. Or not at all. Although very unlikely. You may not leave with all of the answers you came there in search of or any at all. But you will leave with exactly what you needed. And the more you set your expectations aside the more you will realize and appreciate that you did.

If you are unsure if you should do ayahuasca, I highly recommend waiting until you feel like the time is right. This is a personal experience on your own personal journey. A highly personal one. It is not simply a drug trip.

With that being said, if you do want to know about my personal experience or have any general questions, I would be more than happy to answer them. 


So, was it what I expected? Definitely not at all. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes, I am planning on it. Was it easy? God, NO. Was it enjoyable? Not until the end. But it is a process. What would I change or what would I do differently going in? I wouldn’t read any stories about others’ experiences. I would instead turn inward and focus on my own.

I do want to provide info for a great place to do it. If you feel Mother Ayahuasca calling to you. They are gentle and really care about your well being. They are there to give you answers, and assist in the process, but understand this is your journey and let you make your own decisions. After all, isn’t that the whole point of this experience?




Feather Crown Ayahuasca Ceremony Retreat

Santa Clara, Ecuador (outside of Tena)

Feather Crown offers 5 day, 8 day, and 12 day retreats starting around $500. Lodging, meals, plant baths, jungle walks, ayahuasca ceremonies, and a visit to a local village are included in the price.

Getting There: Quito is the best city to fly into and you can take a shuttle from there. Once your retreat is booked, they will assist you in providing options to get there.

A Homestay in Lembeni

While in Tanzania, I decide to spend four nights with a family in a local village. I am already in Moshi and walk to the local bus station to catch a bus to Lembeni. The Moshi bus station is insane. Actually insane. There are dozens of men with boxes on their heads, shouting into the windows of the buses. In these boxes are snacks, drinks, cell phone accessories, and more. They are all fighting each other to make a sale to anyone on the bus. I see this and brace myself as I try to push my way through to talk to the bus driver. Umm excuse me, does this bus go to Lembeni? He looks at me with a confused face. Lembeni? Yes, Lembeni. Ummm, yes it does but why do you want to go there? I am staying with a family. He stares at me blankly but says okay and hands me a ticket.

I take a seat on the bus and about 4 hours later, the bus driver looks at me and yells, Lembeni! I make my way to the front of the crowded bus and step off alone. The bus, still full of people, pulls away into the distance. My guide is waiting for me there on the side of the road. He introduces himself and I follow him down the red clay road. The village is small but it is hard to tell how many people actually live here because there is only one road and it curves up ahead behind the houses.

We arrive to a large red gate and enter to meet my hosts, two sisters who live in the house together. I am greeted with a warm “Karibu!” (Which means welcome, and a word I will come to hear often over the next week.) Their house is one story with three bedrooms. Pretty spacious, I even get a bedroom all to myself. I drop off my things and the guide brings in an itinerary with a list of activities that we will be doing over the next few days. Plant trees in a local forest. Visit a Masaai village. Cook with my host family. Eat meals together.

Before my trip, every single person that heard I was coming to Tanzania warned me about the food. They told me. “There are not the most sanitary conditions. You will definitely get sick at some point, it is expected. When I went to Tanzania, I got really sick for a few days.” Even when I went to get my yellow fever shot, the doctor went over all of the other diseases I could get there and advised me to be careful about the food I eat while I am there. It can make me really sick. Well luckily I brought probiotics and anti-diarrhea medicine to pop before every meal. 


I am tired from the long trip and tell my host family that I am going to go to sleep for the night. The next morning, I wake up early and head to the bathroom to take a shower. I see a toilet, but no shower.

I walk in the living room. Good morning! Excuse me, where is the shower? Oh, I will prepare it for you! Would you like cold water or hot water? Wow they are really taking care of me here. Talk about hospitality. Cold water is fine. Whatever is easier. After about three minutes, she returns and leads me to the bathroom. There is one large bucket of water and a small bucket floating on top. Here you go. Okay, perfect. I quickly learn that they have no running water at all in this village. Before meals, we pass around a pitcher filled with water and one person holds the pitcher and pours out water over our hands while we wash them over a bucket.

It is the first time I have stayed somewhere without any running water. Which is actually a great experience. Each time I wash myself from that bucket, I think of the evolution of running water and wonder at what point showering became a luxury instead of a necessity. And how many times I have stood there in the shower at home, letting the hot water massage my back, not even appreciating the entire experience or that I am able to even do that at all. Anyways, more on that another day.


After breakfast, my guide picks me up and we spend the entire day planting trees together. He doesn’t say much, just watches me. In the car he asks, how old are you? I answer, thirty-five. Where is your husband? I tell him that I have been asking myself the same question! I laugh. He does not. Well do you at least have children? No. No, I do not. “Why not?” He asks. Hmmm many reasons. Well why didn’t you have children with any of your previous boyfriends? Oh wow. I guess because it just didn’t feel right. Well why don’t you go out and find someone to have children with? I mean, I am not in a rush to have children. I am fine, thanks.

But who will take care of you when you are old and can no longer take care of yourself? A question I will be asked multiple times every single day I am in Africa. So much that at the end of my trip, I left wondering, who WILL take care of me when I am older?

I respond, I don’t know. He turns to me and places his hand on my arm. Looks me in the eyes and says, what if I told you I will have children with you? Hmm well I would say that is inappropriate because you are married. I don’t know this man and the entire energy in the car has changed. I am alone. In a far away land with no cell service. A little scared of if he will try to take me up on his offer without my consent. I sit tense next to him the rest of the way home. Please just let me get back to the village and out of his car safely.


We pull up and I get out of the car, mumble goodbye, and walk into the house as quickly as possible. Welcome home! How was it? My anxiety still present but I tell them it was fine. She says, let’s go next door and meet the neighbors who are helping to prepare dinner. Okay. We walk through the gate to the house next to us. There is a woman sitting on the ground, husking corn. A pile of cow shit inches from where she is sitting. Two sickly looking cows, the size of dogs, lying on the ground next to her. Flies jumping from the cow shit to the corn and back again.

I start to feel dizzy. Nice to meet you, I say. Then turn to ask my host, “Can we go for a walk?” Sure. We say goodbye and walk around to get some fresh air. My stomach hurts already just thinking about this dinner we are about to eat. No running water. Corn with cow shit all over it. We may even be eating these sick looking cows for dinner. We head back to the house just as her sister is finishing up cooking dinner. We sit down. 

She puts some corn on my plate along with some mystery meat. My plate is completely full. Overflowing. More food than I can possibly eat. And I can usually eat a lot. We sit there and I take a couple bites. I immediately feel sick. Most likely because of my anxiety and also knowing where this food came from. I don’t feel well, can I lay down for a moment? They look at me. You don’t feel well? We will take you to the hospital. No, no. I don’t need to go to the hospital, I just need to lay down. No, no if you can’t even eat, we will take you to the hospital. We will call your guide to come back and get you. No, please don’t.

There is a language barrier. They only speak a few words of English. I try to explain to them I don’t need to go to the hospital. Well, then eat. I don’t know much about African culture but I do know it is rude to not finish your food when eating as a guest in someone’s home. I am not sure what to do because I don’t want to go to the hospital, I don’t think I can eat this food, and I definitely do not want to spend time alone with my guide again.

They continue to sit there and stare at me, pleading that I need to go to the hospital. I try to explain to them that I am just tired but they don’t understand. They end up calling my guide to come back over and get me. He comes over and says he will take me to the hospital. I don’t need to go to the hospital. I am super frustrated at this point and his presence is not helping. I start to break down and cry. I feel overwhelmed. He asks, are you crying because you don’t have a boyfriend? No, I am crying because I can’t eat this food and I just want to lay down.

Eat your food and you will feel better. I can’t. Then you should go to the hospital. I eat a few more spoonfuls of food and tell them I am sorry but I am finished. I head to my room. As I close my eyes, I can’t help but be thankful I only have two more days left here.


The next morning, one of the women comes in and asks how I am doing. I tell her, thank you, I feel better. She comes up to me, looks me in the eyes, and tells me that she just wants me to feel happy. If I don’t want to eat something, that is okay. Just speak up and tell them. She smiles and hugs me. I can’t help but let out a big smile and feel so much better inside. Breakfast is ready, she says.

I walk out of my room and can tell they must have talked about the situation from the night before because they are extra sweet to me. We share breakfast with only a few words but many smiles. They tell me they are going to church and I say I would like to join. It is always interesting to see the traditions of different religions and cultures. It turns out it is a very special day at church. After an hour long ceremony, we parade around the village singing songs, stopping to light candles. It is really amazing to see how much everyone enjoys this. And I love even more how no one looks at me strange for joining them.

After church, we head to a nearby market and I stand there while my host talks and laughs with her friends. I always enjoy seeing how people live. It makes me really think about how this is what their everyday life is like. So different than mine. Yet the feelings are the same.

The rest of the day we spend at their home. People from the village stop by at various times throughout the day and sit down on the couch with us. All talking to each other and just smiling at me. She tells me they heard I was in town and wanted to come and meet me. Such a good feeling and I love seeing how much they welcome everyone who stops by their home, with a loud “Karibu,” offering them drinks and cookies.


The day has come for me to leave and I am genuinely sad. I feel like misunderstandings in the beginning somehow brought us closer. While this homestay was initially hard for me, it was good in that it really brought me out of my comfort zone. Once I became aware of the cultural differences, I was able to embrace them more fully. This is what traveling (and life in general) is all about. You go in thinking one thing and then if you have an open mind, you realize things were completely different than you expected. It is both eye opening and humbling.

Many people in this part of Africa, and in many other cultures as well, do have children so that they have someone to look after them when they are older. When my guide offered, I now honestly believe that he was genuinely trying to help me. I also realized that in a village as small as this, when someone gets sick, it can get pretty bad. My hosts were only trying to help me as well. And I think the warnings about food before the trip had tainted my perspective a bit. Because the food I did eat, was absolutely delicious. And I never actually did get sick while traveling in Tanzania. And as usual, I ate everything.

What I thought was a bad situation was really just love, all around me. I learned a lot about myself during those four days. While we didn’t actually do all that much, I experienced more than I ever imagined that I would. If you ever have the chance to spend time in someone else’s home in a different country, I highly recommend it. I am so thankful that these two women were willing to open up their home and share a part of their lives with me.

I still don’t want any older man that I don’t know, to get me pregnant, but now that I know more about the culture, I can strangely say that I really do appreciate the offer.

Hugs, Caramel, and Cocaine


Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known throughout the world as Amma (meaning “Mother”), is a spiritual leader who has millions of followers across the world. For those who see the world through the lens of social media, she has 15 million Facebook fans if that tells you anything.

Amma is all about love. She believes in helping others and providing them with the comfort they need during times of struggle. (Hence the nickname, “Mother.”) She is known for giving a hug to everyone who stays at her ashram to bless them. She has hugged over 34 million people and been known to sit in the same spot for more than 22 hours without interruption while she does this. Talk about dedication. I love hugs. I guess that means I am going to India.


Two months later, I am in India. Arrive at the ashram. After checking in, I head to my room to drop off my backpack. I am surrounded by people dressed in white. On my right, a girl doing yoga on the shaded grassy area under a tree. On my left, a couple are sitting next to each other meditating.

While the vibe is peaceful, the ashram is actually really busy this week. Thousands of people are here. Some for the night, others for a few months. You can tell the ones who are staying longer term because they seem to take a sense of ownership over the operations of the place. Their confidence and sense of purpose here almost seems sort of cliquey to me. Like they are on the inside and I am an outsider. But that is most likely in my head.

I walk past a table with a woman selling jewelry. She holds out a necklace with a single rudraksha bead on it. “This seed came from Amma’s womb. Amma birthed it.” Hmmm. What does that even mean? Hopefully they have washed it since.


After breakfast, I see a table with a sign reading, “Come here to get your token for darshan (aka blessing aka hug).” Easy enough. I head that way and the guy sitting there hands me a token with Q1 written on it. He tells me this indicates which group I am in. Once I see the sign in front display Q1, I should get in line to go on stage. I look up and see that the sign currently reads A1. I look back down at the guy who gave me the token. He shrugs and says, “Busy day. Try coming back around 7:00pm.” It is currently 9:30am and Amma is already on stage doing her thing. Hundreds lined up to see her. So. Many. People. 

The energy here is…hopeful. From those I have spoken with and the vibes of everyone around me, it seems that many have come here in search of something. Something that is missing in their lives. Others are going through a transition and seeking guidance from the divine. While the people here are friendly, I can sort of feel a sense hopelessness in the air, longing to be filled. The healing everyone is striving to find. Not many say hello or smile at me. They are here for their own purpose. To find themselves. Not to make friends with me.

Most of Amma’s followers truly believe that she is a saint. I can see it in the way they look at her. How they talk about her. Like she is the answer. She is their God. At lunch, a man tells me a story. He explains that once a guy with leprosy came to see Amma in hopes of being cured by her blessing. He waited in line for hours and hours. Once he finally got to Amma, she took him in her arms and pulled him onto her lap like a baby. She started stroking the hair on his head. Then began licking his skin. With her teeth, started slowly pulling off the infected skin until he was completely cured. “It’s true,” he says. “He still comes to her ashram to this very day to pay her thanks.” I am not really sure how to respond to this so I tell him, “Oh, cool.”

It is slightly strange for me to see individuals worship another living human being. I mean aren’t we all equally one? I get it that people do worship other human beings. Like sports figures or singers. People appreciate and admire their talent and therefore the body attached to that talent. And maybe people appreciate Amma’s talent and her selflessness. But it seems more than that. I guess we are all just looking for someone to look up to. And instead of a Michael Jordan type figure, they choose Amma.


The sun has gone down and it is finally time for my group to line up on stage and receive our hugs. Amma is in the center of the stage. Dozens of her followers are sitting on the floor surrounding her. While waiting for our turn, we watch Amma hug the others in line before us. Some bring her gifts. Flowered garland necklaces. A basket of apples and oranges.

We see a woman present her with a can of caramel. Amma blesses it and then passes it behind her, to her assistant. Her assistant opens the can and hands it down to be passed around stage . One by one, I watch people stick their finger in, say a prayer of thanks, and then close their eyes as they put their finger in their mouth. Rubbing the caramel off on their tongue. Savoring the flavor. The look on their face tells me they truly believe the caramel is blessed. And by eating it, they are now blessed as well.

Watching them do this reminds me of watching someone do cocaine. After snorting a line, the way they slowly run their finger around the plate. Picking up the last drops of powder. Then opening their mouths to rub it around on their gums, enjoying every last drop. I guess everyone just wants to be healed. Some with caramel, some with cocaine. The former maybe just slightly better for the soul.

I am in a chair. A woman sitting at my feet looks up at me and lifts the can of caramel towards me. She is staring into my eyes as if to say yes, please go ahead. As if encouraging me to share in this experience with them. I grab the can, take some on my pinkie, and pass it along to the next person. As I lick it off my finger, I don’t feel any different, but I do enjoy the feeling of togetherness that surrounds me. Completely in the moment amongst thousands of strangers. The experience is powerful.


When it is almost my turn to hug Amma, everything starts happening really fast. One second, I am sitting there in a chair on stage facing the audience. Someone hands me a wet wipe to wash off my face. To not get makeup on Amma. They explain I am not to touch her. The next moment, a member of her staff grabs my hand and whispers for me to kneel down, facing Amma, behind the person she is currently hugging. Someone then says, “Go, go, go! It is your turn.” I move forward, while someone pushes me lightly from behind, closer to Amma’s chair.

Her assistants place my hands on each side of her, making sure I don’t touch her. I am trying to balance but slightly unstable like all of the sudden I may awkwardly fall face forward into her lap. She grabs my head and places it against the side of her cheek. Her arms embrace me and my nose is instantly filled with the scent of roses. She whispers some sort of blessing into my ear and then pushes me away when she is done. Handing me a piece of candy and a packet of ash as I stand up to leave the stage. Her team sort of lead me along and out of the way.

As I walk down the stairs, I notice the vibe has totally changed from earlier in the day. The nighttime atmosphere with lights hanging all around. People standing around talking. Laughing. There is happy Indian music playing in the background. It feels similar to a carnival. There is a feeling of ecstasy in the air. The energy is high. Everyone feeling euphoric after receiving healing through Amma’s loving embrace. Full of hope and gratitude. It is such a good place to be. I don’t feel any different after receiving a hug myself, but am definitely enjoying the energy of everyone else. I stop for a second to take it all in.


While some parts of this experience are slightly harder for me to grasp, I always love to meet people who really believe in something. And who are passionate about it. Whether Amma really has God like powers or not, I suppose it honestly does not matter. If someone believes something to be true, doesn’t that make it so? For them at least? And as long as that belief helps them in any way, I am all for it. Thoughts are a powerful thing. And so is perspective.

Amma preaches love and healing for all individuals. This definitely make her an incredible person to worship. As humans, we are drawn to the qualities in others that we want to have ourselves. We also want to believe in something bigger that inspires us to grow. Whether we get that from Amma, or something/someone else, I don’t think it matters. What is important is that we have something, anything, in our lives that makes us feel this way. That inspires us to turn inward and continuously grow. To live our best lives. We have all of the answers inside of us. Maybe some people just need to be led to Amma in order to find them.


More Info

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US Website

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  • Amritapuri Ashram is located in India’s southern state of Kerala. Prior to visiting, it is best to register online using one of the websites listed on the left below. To stay here it is around $4 USD per day which includes housing and three meals per day.

Getting There: The two closest airports are in Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) and in Cochin (Kochi). The ride from Trivandrum takes about 3 hours. From Cochin, the drive takes around 4 hours.

If you are coming by bus or train, Kayamkulam and Karunagappally are the major cities to reach. From there, take an auto-rickshaw to Parayakadavu. Ask the driver to take you to Amritapuri Asram, seaside.

Have You Been Eating Sand?


We decide to spend a few days on the island of Siquijor, also known as ‘Withcraft Island’ because of it’s traditional healing methods. The main reason I want to visit here is to try one of these methods known as bolo-bolo healing. This form of healing is done to cleanse away bad spirits and ailments for those whom which it is performed.

There isn’t much info online regarding how to find one of these healers, because there aren’t many who still practice it today. I decide to ask the owner of our hostel, who is a native on the island. She says she thinks she knows the general area where a healer lives and will send a guide with us to try and find him first thing in the morning.


The next day, our guide meets us as we finish up breakfast. We all hop on motorbikes and off we go in search of the bolo-bolo healer. We make our way directly through the middle of the island toward the exact opposite end. We ride up and down hills lined on both sides with the most vibrant green landscape. I look to the right and happen to catch a glimpse of a waterfall, not a soul in sight. Just the water flowing down, somehow making it more beautiful that it continues to fall although there is no one there to witness it. 

Once we arrive to the other side of the island, we turn off the main road onto a smaller gravel road where locals live. There is a man working outside in his front yard. Our guide slows to a stop to ask him if he knows where the healer lives. The man looks up, thinks for a moment, and then points behind us. We turn around and head back down the main road where we came from. This time we turn off and head down an even smaller side street. We find a place to park, take off our helmets, and look around. Our guide points to an orange house with a large, white front porch. “There is his house.” It doesn’t look like anyone is home.

We follow behind him as he walks towards the porch. He tells us to wait here as he continues to walk around the side of the house toward the backyard. About five minutes later our guide reappears and stands next to us. “He will be out in a minute.” All three of us look at each other, exchanging silent glances of anticipation. Unsure of what is about to happen. An older gentleman then appears from around the side of the house carrying some supplies. A one liter plastic Fanta bottle filled with what looks to be water. A single water glass. A smooth, black stone. And a long, plastic straw.


He walks past us, while motioning to the empty chair in the corner of the porch. I suppose I will go first since I got us into this. I sit down in the chair. He pours water from the Fanta bottle into the empty glass. When the glass is about half full, he gently drops the stone inside. It sinks to the bottom. With the other hand, he takes a chug of water from the Fanta bottle, swishes it around his mouth, and spits it out on the ground in front of him. As if to cleanse his pallet. 

He puts the straw into the glass and holds it near the top of my head. Here we go. After taking a deep breath, he places his lips around the top of the straw. He moves the glass from the top of my head, around my back, down my chest, stomach, down each leg, and finally to my feet. As he does this, he continuously blows air bubbles through the straw, into the water.

When he gets to my feet, he lifts his head up and holds the glass in the air for us to see. The water is now murky and filled with small, floating particles. He nods in approval and then pours it out to begin the entire process again. This is repeated until finally the water remains clear, holding it up, smiling in satisfaction. Maddie goes next.

During her first round, we watch as the water immediately turns murky. The glass fills with particles of all sizes. We have no idea what is happening but it is interesting to watch. When he gets to her feet, he lifts the glass and places his hand over the top as he pours the water out between his fingers. Making sure not to let any of the contents inside slip out through his fingers.

Once the water is drained, he empties the remaining contents onto the ledge of the porch. There we can see a pile of sand. And seashells. Seashells well larger than the size of the straw hole. No idea how they could have possibly gotten into the glass since we were watching him the entire time. We look around at each other stunned but amazed. 

The healer says something and we ask our guide to translate. He tells us that he asked if she as been eating sand? Huh?? Ummm not that she is aware of. What does the sand mean? And the seashells? Our guide asks him and then laughs at his answer. “He says he has no idea.” The healer picks up two of the bigger shells and hands them to her to keep. He finishes this process with Georgie as well and when he is done we ask him how much we owe him. He says no charge. We give him a small donation and head back to our hostel.

The three shells that were found in Maddie’s glass.


As we ride back, I try to figure out what just happened. We know there is no way the shells could have been in his mouth and fit through that straw. So how did they get in the glass? My brain starts working hard to solve this mystery. How exactly did this trick work?

Did I feel refreshed afterwards? Like I was cleansed? Not really. But that doesn’t mean the impurities weren’t removed from my body. As my brain continues to try and make sense of it all, the line between faith and understanding quickly becomes apparent.

We are so quick to doubt things if we can’t explain them even if we see them happen with our own eyes yet we are willing to accept things we have never seen just because they make us feel good. So why is it so hard to believe that what just happened was really the rock working to suck out our impurities?

I think this is because when we actually see something, it crosses that line from imaginary to real. When we witness something happening with our own eyes, our brain starts working to explain it to us. Because that is the brain’s job. To create meaning and provide us with understanding.

After reviewing the facts, I ask myself, “Why do you even need to know?” Why do we always have to understand something before accepting it as truth. I am a big believer in that there are plenty of things happening around us that our brains are not yet able to comprehend. But that doesn’t make them any less real. We can try to figure it out but at the same time, the human brain is limited in that it can only use all it has learned up until this point in order to reach a conclusion.

With this realization, I simply choose to accept whatever just happened. It wouldn’t make my life better to know this was a magic trick. But It does make me happier and feel physically better to think that it was a legit healing experience. So this is what I choose to believe. A great thing about the brain is that we can choose any perspective we want at any given moment. I think this is a skill that we should utilize more often. Because, why not. 🙂