It’s never too late to undergo an adventure of personal healing. Rhea Consalvo is the mother of Psychedelic Times founder Joe Mattia, and she decided to try ayahuasca- her first psychedelic experience ever- at the Temple of the Way of Light in Peru just a few weeks ago. We spoke with Rhea soon after she got back to gain perspective on a psychedelically-naive senior citizen’s first experience with the jungle medicine.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Rhea. How did you come to hear about ayahuasca? How did you choose the Temple of the Way of Light for your first journey, and how did you prepare for and approach this experience?
I had never done a psychedelic before, and it was a hell of an experience! Four years ago, Joe [Mattia] introduced me to kambo. I had some really severe pain that I was living with, a torn rotator cuff. Nothing was helping and I was trying everything. I went to every modality I could and nothing worked. I’ve also had Hepatitis C for 37+ years, and though I’m not sick with it, I thought maybe it should go. He told me that kambo was a major antibiotic, so I agreed to try it. It was a little bit scary, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had bloodwork done right before I went and it did get rid of some of the viral load- not the whole thing, but some. But I was pain free, and I’ve gotten six doses of this in the last year and a half. So my experience with kambo, plus his website got me interested. I know Joey- he was always a really good kid, and I was really interested in what he was looking into. So I started reading Psychedelic Times, and in the last few years I’ve read about ayahuasca and iboga and every bit of your content.
I am going through a big change in my life right now, and one day it just hit me. I was reading some article that maybe you wrote and I just decided “I’m going to do it, I’m not afraid.” I had a lot of visions when I was a kid, and one of my fears was that demons or entities would get in me. Also, the press in the ‘70s was horrible about LSD. Not that I actually believed it, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go to find out real information. So I stayed away from psychedelics for a long time. It wasn’t the psychedelic experience that drew me in, but the healing experience- that maybe it could give me a little clarity as to what I am doing with the rest of my life.
As I was searching the internet, I talked to a lot of different people and they all said you have to be careful of where you go. Now the funny thing is, I’ve been reading the website since it went up, but I somehow missed the three interviews with Matthew Watherston [founder of the Temple of the Way of Light]. I’m watching these YouTube videos on the internet and the Temple came up a few times, so I zeroed it down to that. I talked to Joe and mentioned the Temple, and he said “Oh, you saw those interviews on the site!” And I was like “No, I can’t believe it but somehow I missed that!”
I also considered churches and circles in California, but I said no, I wanted to go to Peru where the original teachers are. Not that the people in the States aren’t any good, but I just wanted the experience in the jungle. I’d never left the country before. I went by myself, and it was the most amazing experience ever. It was a little out of my comfort zone because I hate the heat, but other than that, it was the best. A lot of people asked me if I felt safe, but I never once worried about being safe. The place was so well appointed, in a primitive kind of way- it was beautiful. I really loved it. And the insights were amazing. Physically it was challenging, but I feel profoundly better since then.
That’s really great.
It’s sort of amazing how it all came to be. It took time, but I got there.
How long did you spend at the Temple and how many times did you sit with ayahuasca?
Seven times over a three week stay, and I’m happy I did that. The first night I did it, before it was over, I was questioning my sanity. But I’m glad I did it seven times; I really got a lot out of it.
Do you feel like sharing what your experience was like, and what it helped heal for you?
I have no guarantees, but I have a feeling that if my Hepatitis C is not totally gone, it’s mostly gone. My experience was really physical, but I did have some definite insights into my family as well. They told us to set intentions beforehand, and my intentions were to cure myself and to also give me clarity. I’m in a 32-year relationship and I’m ending it. I went there already knowing it was over- I was already dispersing the house, getting rid of everything I own. I’m just going to drive across the country and figure it out once I get there. I really was looking for clarity, and it gave me something extra.
As far as my family line, I have a long family history, and a lot of clarity came to me about that. I had conversations with my ancestors- some of them I knew, and some of them I didn’t. I also had a lot of visions with sacred geometry and different religious texts that I have read, and it just gave me a great deal of peace and clarity. I feel very sure of myself now. I had inertia in a certain direction, and it pushed me over the edge. I wasn’t sure which way to go, and I had made intentions that I was going to come back and tell my partner how I felt. I mean, I love him. I’m not even angry or going through some crazy breakup. It’s kind of weird, but it really worked out well… it’s very amicable. I got clear on the best way to approach it. I really couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Now once I get out on the road who knows, but I know deep down inside that I’ll be fine.
I’ve been an antique dealer, I’ve been a collector, and I have a studio in my house. It feels good to get rid of things. I never thought I’d do this- get rid of things I took so long to get, but I don’t really care anymore. It was just weighing me down, and I feel liberated now. Yeah, I feel liberated, that’s it! Ayahuasca has put me in such a peaceful state, and it also gave me hope for the future.
Beautiful. I’m curious- did you experience ayahuasca as a spirit or an entity? Did you sense a “personality” behind the medicine?
In two different ceremonies I did, it felt like a motherly presence. I know that this is a living thing. It’s extremely intuitive, because there are so many things that just fell into place- even the way I found myself there. I usually follow signs anyway, and this was pretty amazing. I do feel the spirit of ayahuasca; it’s still in me. My body feels totally clean. It’s pretty amazing. Physically, I feel great.
Do you see yourself being called to ayahuasca again in the future, or was it a one-time experience?
I’m feeling it, yeah, like I want to go back. They made it interesting every day; it was beautiful. I felt really cared for. The people, the whole experience… it was pretty incredible, just how they diet with these plants and the dedication they have. I got a lot of people interested in frog medicine, and I was surprised there was so much interest out here on the East Coast. There are people looking for changes- I guess it’s just a matter of educating them and taking that step. It is scary at first, but everything that you don’t know about is, right?
What words of advice would you give to someone who feels called to aya but is on the fence about whether it’s right for them or not?
What made me hesitate was the fear of losing control, that some entity would get inside me. I don’t know about other centers, but I felt that the Temple of the Way of Light cared for you. If you ran into any problems during ceremony, they were right there. I don’t know how they did it, since it was pitch dark in there. If anybody has any hesitation about going into the Temple, know that there’s something special about that longitude and latitude. I’d like to go back to the jungle. Most people ask me if it’s dangerous, but I never felt in danger. After the ceremonies, they have two intensive days of psychotherapy to help you process it. The transformations I saw there were amazing, and how I felt myself was amazing. I saw these kids come in damaged and walk away light. It was a beautiful experience; I will do it again.
We are very grateful to Rhea for taking the time to speak with us. You can learn more about the Temple of the Way of Light here, and read out interviews with Temple founder Matthew Watherston here, here, and here.