Purging Trauma – by Holly Bennett



I am 37.

I have been a healthcare professional for 13 years and I actively work in naturopathic oncology here in the valley. I was a very young mother of my now 20-year old son, Isaiah. He is one of the great lights of my life.

My childhood experience left me with some serious abandonment patterns, deep insecurities, and codependence, which very likely lead to two failed marriages and my self-inflicted suffering.

My intimate relationships were a clear mirror as to the woman I was then. Seeped in distraction and deception. Using substances to run from the truth, they reflected my deep insecurities. They broke my heart and spirit time and time again and my codependent behaviors flared… and thus, one night, I attempted to take my life.

I was almost successful and frankly, I scared the hell out of myself.

I had done yoga and some light meditation in the past and after this traumatic event, everything changed. I woke up and started going to Alanon meetings; I poured myself into womens’ circles, ecstatic dance, breathwork and Kriya Yoga. 

Photo Courtesy of Holly Bennett

I dove deeply into my favorite teacher, Angie’s, yoga class, which, for me, mimics ceremony beautifully and this is where I believe my journey to ceremonial medicine began. We would begin in softness, moving our bodies intuitively, flow through a few Sun A’s, swirl our torso into kundalini, follow a short Vinyasa flow, find ourselves in Goddess pose and roar it out, spring into ecstatic dance, find stillness and a partner to eyes gaze with and fall into Savasana.

That is how I experience ceremonial plant medicine. Not physically but energetically. A direct dialogue with the Divine and a reaffirmed faith. 

You will hear me say “for me” and “how I experience” because while there are consistencies and similarities in many travelers’ journeys, all are equally and vastly different. 

My awareness of Ayahuasca arrived in 2007 in the form of a documentary where Veterans with PTSD were traveling to the Peruvian jungle for healing in the face of desperate trauma. I have always had an interest in trauma-informed care and so I researched the medicine extensively. I couldn’t have imagined experiencing this healing personally or living my current Divine reality where I am able to hold space for others as they heal.  

My journey with psychedelic plant medicine began shortly after my attempt to take my life in the spring of 2016. I took mushrooms gifted from a friend and regarded the experience very seriously, researching ways that would enhance the medicine.

I prepared different rooms with different lighting and moods and arranged the outdoor space, and then, we took the medicine.

I weaved through a number of intense emotions in the space and then I stepped outside. It is said that “once you see you cannot unsee;” this moment encompassed that idea for me.

The grass and the trees.
The sky.

I laid down on a quilt I had prepared earlier in the day and I built a relationship with the tree, blue sky, and birds, and later in the night, the moon and stars. I woke up the following day and it was true. I could not unsee.

With each mushroom journey, I became more reverent and spent hours researching a concept I now understand as “holding space.” The medicine healed me, brought light back into my eyes, peeled away the layers I had wrapped around my heart, and showed me the truth I could not see before. And so, things became clearer, and in many ways, harder.

By the spring of 2017, a series of synchronicities inspired me to leave my marriage and I was throwing myself into every breathwork, Kriya, meditation, and yoga function I could find, and even in the midst of complete heartbreak, a remembrance of magic seemed to swirl all around me.

And that is when I deeply connected with Nicole Band and met women that have significantly shaped who I am today.  

November 16, 2017

I sat for my first ceremony with 12 women by my side. We went in as brave and vulnerable seekers and emerged remembering the warrior within, with a capacity to heal. My lessons that night were profound and intimately gifted by a source that could only be described as Mother/Grandmother presence. The Madre showed me the absolute truth of my darkness and of my light.

It was two years before returning to Ayahuasca.

Two years to process, surrender and die over and over again to the truth of myself. To sever ties with love and to honor the suffering of loss and even more so, the suffering of victimhood. To build abundant and deep relationships with my Divine family. Space creators, holders, and healers. To travel the world and discover my gifts. Two years until my next ceremony and a year after that until my next.

Subsequently, I was asked to help a traveling Shaman at that time and assisted in 14 ceremonies. I learned so much about holding space and creating safety for others to journey deep, bringing me to today and the gifts I continue to explore.

For those unfamiliar, Ayahuasca is a tea; plants soaked and boiled in water.  Vine Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi vine) or Vine of the soul with the leaves Chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis) and at times, other known healing plants from the jungle. Harmine is sourced from the B. caapi vine and acts as an MAO inhibitor which slows the digestion of the active entheogenic chemical substance  N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) found in Chacruna leaves. It is primarily found in the jungles of South America in Peru although there are other sources throughout the world. The MAO inhibitor combined with DMT allows the medicine to remain intensely active for 4-6 hours and in my experience, ethereally active for an extended period after that. 

I truly believe that 98% of a plant medicine experience happens after the ceremony in the integration process. I am an advocate for ongoing support after the ceremony to gain the clearest and most productive insight from this intense experience. I am also an advocate for working with breathwork prior to plant medicine. I believe this creates a strong platform for the knowledge that all this wisdom lies within you – plant medicine simply pulls back the veil.

Photo Courtesy of Holly Bennett

I have so much more to share but I hope this gives you an idea of the journey I have chosen.

With love,
Holly Bennett