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People sitting in a retreat center in Mexico

A Mission Within Testimonial

By: Ryan Roberts

How do you even begin to share an experience that can only be described as ineffable? Words have the ability to be extremely powerful, but they’re merely symbols used to convey complex emotions and thoughts. Words are linear tools for a multidimensional reality. They will always fall short of the desired impact. Nevertheless, I will give it my best shot.

For the better part of the last 18 years, I’ve struggled with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a plethora of issues resulting from multiple traumatic brain injuries. I felt alone in the world. At times, I felt like a sociopath conjuring lies to serve as “emotions” because I couldn’t connect with anyone or anything… most importantly my Higher Self. Superficially, I “appeared” well put together but, on the inside, I had burnt down to a few remaining embers of Truth. Those embers were on the brink of being suffocated by shame, anger, hate, sadness, and loneliness when my world imploded and I fell flat on my face. On the brink of losing everything, a voice inside me quietly said “you are a person worth saving.”

I spent the next 3 years listening to that voice and began piecing my life back together. Not as it was, but as I wanted it to be. I had to embark on a hero’s journey to reconnect my heart and mind. I had neglected myself for so long that it was a real struggle. How could I provide love to a person that I held nothing but contempt for? Well, I started small. I began meditating twice a day. That led to breathwork. That led to float tank therapy and gratitude practices. I began to feel OK sitting with myself. Even if it was a particularly tough day, I held true to these new habits rather than turning to alcohol or other self-deprecating behavior.

I wish I could tell you that all of those practices were enough to get me where I am today, but I still had baggage to shed, social and spiritual conditioning to undo, and armor to remove. I was aware of the negative loops playing, but regardless of the effort, I put into rewriting them I still felt lost and alone. Just as I had fabricated emotions, I had fabricated a more positive story that my body and soul couldn’t receive. After much reflection and discussion with mentors, I became aware that my body was holding on to deep-seated trauma that had to be released. I had touched on these years earlier during somatic therapy, but it just scratched the surface. Then a mentor that had become a close friend suggested plant medicine.

I’m a highly analytical person that structures his world through the application of frameworks and proven models. So, I began researching plant medicine. I read book after book. Listened to podcast after podcast. My paradigm was quickly shifting because I rediscovered the Truths that were always within me. Every book I opened and every podcast I listened to felt like it spoke directly to me… not the egoic me, but the Higher Self. I kept saying to myself “I’ve never heard anyone say that before, but I Know it to be True.” That reassured me that I was on the healing path. I became a sponge and soaked up as much healing as I possibly could, but there was still this cloud of pain and sorrow following me around. As they say, what you resist, persists.

Over the last year, I’ve had several opportunities to sit with various plant medicines, but I just didn’t feel called to them. Was it my ego trying to maintain its dominance? Maybe. However, I had heard over and over from the plant medicine community that if I didn’t feel called to the medicine, not to partake. The right plant medicine will find me when I am truly ready and open to the experience. Fast forward to 8 weeks ago when my close friend and mentor reached out to me after helping facilitate a plant medicine ceremony with an organization called Mission Within. “Ryan, this group is doing some really impactful work with the veteran community. Here is the contact info for Dr. Martin Polanco, founder of Mission Within.”

A few emails and text messages later, and I was having an intake call with Michael “Punky” Higgs, retired Navy Seal and Director of Operations for Mission Within. As the community had promised, my path unfolded beautifully. Punky spent over an hour with me explaining the process, what to expect, and a little about his own healing path. This was it, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Three weeks later I was on my way to San Diego and then to Mexico for an Ibogaine ceremony followed by a 5-MEO DMT ceremony.

On November 5th, 2021 my group (that I now refer to as Family) met up with Punky, a lead therapist, and a support therapist for lunch in San Diego. We did some introductions followed by some logistics before heading off to the retreat house in Mexico. In an effort to not spoil the experience for others, I’ll skip most of the hours leading up to night one’s Ibogaine ceremony. All I will tell you is that we were welcome with loving, open arms. We (myself and the three other participants) kept commenting about how perfect everything felt. We were able to achieve a sense of vulnerability that led to shared tears when verbalizing our intentions.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ibogaine, it’s a plant medicine that does come with some medical risks. However, Mission Within has a comprehensive intake process that medically screens participants for risks such as prescription contraindication and/or existing medical issues. Before receiving carefully dosed Ibogaine, we had our vitals taken and an EKG done. Then, it was ON for the next 14 to 16 hours.

To say that the experience with Ibogaine was challenging would be a gross understatement. Before I describe my experience, I need to tell you that each one of our experiences was vastly different. There is a higher intelligence contained within the plant medicine that gives you exactly what you need… not what you “want” or “think you need”. For me, there were almost no visual or auditory hallucinations. The medicine came on hard and strong. I felt it start at the tips of my toes and work its way through my entire body as if it was performing a scan to identify troubled areas. I knew exactly what areas of my body it was working on, but my physical body was in some sort of paralysis. I referred to it lovingly as my spiritual coma.

While the medicine worked on my body, I began to ask Ibogaine specific questions and it would answer me with a clarity that could only be interpreted energetically. Not with the usual five senses. I can only describe it as a sense of “Knowing”. When you sense Truth, there is an energetic vibration that moves through you. It was slightly uncomfortable at first, but I was able to control the depth and breadth of Ibogaine’s effects by opening my heart and surrendering to it. This part of the experience lasted about 4 to 6 hours. For me, the experience was physically challenging, but the medicine was also kind and gentle. However, I achieved a sense of surrender that I didn’t even know was possible. Right when my ego said, “OK, OK, I surrender. I can’t take anymore”, I moved directly into the next phase of the experience.

I can only describe the second phase as deep, quiet, and contemplative. The medicine was still working on my body, but my mind was still. During the next 6+ hours, I constructed the life I wanted, the person I wanted to be, and what tangible steps I needed to take to arrive there. It was as if the Ibogaine was stoking the fading embers of my Higher Self and rekindled the fire. My ego had been beaten into submission and could only watch as a bystander as I slowly transcended it. I cried and cried. Then the cries turned to laughter. The laughter turned to the most powerful energy… it was Love. I felt like light was beaming from my body. Then as quickly as it came in, the Ibogaine subsided.

The next 10-12 hours were physically and emotionally challenging. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink, and I could barely muster up the energy to walk to the bathroom. While quiet contemplation is a beautiful thing, it can become a weird space when you physically and mentally can’t move from it. Never in my life (that I can recall) had I been free of my ego. All was quiet. No thoughts. Just feelings. As powerful as the experience was, it paled in comparison to the gifts given by the medicine.

So, what Truth bombs did Ibogaine drop?

  1. At times, pain is inevitable. However, suffering is a choice. – Going into the medicine, I intended to dive into all of the traumatic events I’d experienced in hopes of putting them behind me. The medicine had a different plan. Rather than showing me the traumatic events under the lens of a microscope, it zoomed out to a stratospheric level. It showed me a large chain of events and the infinite branches of impact that they had on the world. There’s no denying that pain can be extremely tough to sit with, but it’s the precise amount of discomfort needed to move me to where I needed to be. That pain spurred exponential personal and spiritual growth. I Love my pain.
  2. Awareness and Perception are priceless gifts. – One of the most debilitating aspects of my PTSD was the negative view of the world that it created. I was ALWAYS waiting for the next terrible event to take place. I simply could not find good in the world within or around me. To make matters worse, I fed this complex with more and more negativity. It had an insatiable hunger. I gave into the predominant narrative that the world was falling apart. Again, the medicine stepped in. It showed me all of the beautiful aspects of my life and the world around me. I didn’t need anything. Everything required to be eternally happy and at peace had always been there. I simply needed to increase my level of awareness and shift my perspective when challenges came along. It explained this concept with a wonderful analogy… “what good does it do to predict a story’s end when you’ve only read the first 3 chapters.”
  3. Practice patience and presence. – For most of my adult life, I’ve hidden from the aspects of myself that I didn’t want to face. I distracted myself by staying incredibly busy. I obtained multiple degrees and certifications. I got married, divorced, married again, had children. I cruised through the professional ranks to become a healthcare executive. On the side, I even started my own consulting business. On the surface, I was happy and successful. Unfortunately, I had depleted all of my body’s reserves and I hit rock bottom. Without something to distract me from all of the pain, I couldn’t quiet the negative feedback loops. “You’re a terrible person. You don’t deserve any of the good you have in your life. No one could ever love such a monster. Do the world a favor and just end it.” I turned to alcohol because it lessened the intensity… until it didn’t. I looked around me and realized my world was collapsing.

To further my previous point, this was the minimum effective pressure I needed to change my life. I needed to hit rock bottom without someone there to cushion the fall. After the medicine had driven that point home, it bestowed the gifts of patience and presence. I would need these to create the life I wanted. Rather than rush through life always looking at the shot clock, it showed me that time was no more than a human construct. It helped people to make sense of the world and increase their ability to predict events (creating a sense of safety). The Truth is that there is no other time than the eternal Now. To be truly alive means to be fully present in every moment as it unfolds. Sounds simple, but it can be extremely challenging because the world doesn’t play by these rules. To perfect this ability, I would need to be patient with myself and the world around me.

  1. The Truth about my suicidal ideation. – As I attempt to dive into this taboo subject, I want to reiterate that this is only about my experiences. However, I would be remised if I didn’t face it head-on. There have been countless times over the last 18 years that I’ve thought, “Why not just end the pain. The world would be better without me.” Again, the medicine showed me a different perspective. The Truth was that I loved life. This was something that both my egoic and Higher Self held in the highest regard.

But if that was true, where was this narrative coming from? The Truth was that I wanted an end to my existing story. I wanted to be truly alive. Not hiding from life and all that it had to offer. The veil had been lifted and I saw the narrative for what it was. Rather than being angry or bitter for all the time lost, I showered it with Love and it disappeared like dust in the wind. I was finally free!

  1. My relationship with my ego. – Going into the Ibogaine, I wanted to experience ego death. I thought my ego was evil and needed to be exorcised like a demon. However, the medicine showed me how many times that my ego kept me safe and set me up for success. I simply needed to establish a healthy relationship with my ego… to tame it. During my time with Ibogaine, I had the opportunity to speak with my Higher Self. That quiet voice reminded me that I was worth saving. I became more and more aware of the energetic differences between my Higher Self and my ego. I became aware of how it felt when my Higher Self was communicating. It was a sense of Knowing. It was that gut feeling we all get but often discount. Again, it’s about awareness.

So, I’m about three weeks out from ceremony and still piecing together all of the wisdom and Truth shared by the medicine. Rather than force the sensemaking process, I’m being patient with myself and allowing downloads to come through in their own time.

Back to my experience. The remainder of day two was focused on recovery and integration. We went through some group sessions during which we openly shared our experiences with the medicine. We also spent some one-on-one time with the therapists discussing any challenges we faced or themes we couldn’t make sense of. The night wrapped up with discussions about the 5-MEO ceremony scheduled for day three.

5-MEO… the God Molecule! I truly don’t know where to start. I feel like my cursor has just been hovering here forever. For this, I have to be completely open and vulnerable to whoever might read this. This medicine shattered every paradigm… every construct… every framework into a billion pieces.

It began with a beautiful cleansing and prayer delivered by the medicine woman. Then she gave some very basic instructions and it was time to experience the 5-MEO DMT. It started with a “handshake” dose which was meant to familiarize your body with taking in the vapor from the medicine. Then it was time for the full dose. I breathed in the medicine slowly and deeply. The medicine woman counted backward from 10 and I was supposed to release the smoke when we got to 1. As she was counting, my world started vibrating, and immediately after exhaling, I was launched like a rocket into a place that doesn’t exist on our usual plane of consciousness. I hate to even call it a place because it was everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

My physical form simply disintegrated. My body was lying on the bed, but my soul… my energetic self was in the most beautiful place. I was One with Source… with God… with Christ consciousness. Nothing existed in this space but unconditional Love. I felt immersed in an ocean of bliss. The concept of “Ryan” no longer existed and I didn’t feel attached to it. I don’t remember feeling any discomfort or fear… just Love, Love, Love. It was effortless. There was no sense of time. I “felt” the presence of God, but there was still a sense of distance. Then I began to return from the medicine.

I used sign language to signal for more medicine. They helped sit me up and I received an even larger dose. This time when the medicine woman reached the count of 1, everything ceased to exist. I was back in the space with Source, but this time I had merged into Oneness with God. I looked around as my energy (in the form of glowing chakras) exploded into billions of particles over and over again. Then God reached his hand into my energy fields and began to remove all of the blockages. Every last shred of guilt, shame, hate, rage, and fear was stripped from my energetic being and discarded into the ether. In the presence of Unconditional Love, they held no power and merged into Love. Resistance to this discomfort was futile at best. After the ceremony, they told me that I ripped off my eye mask and was rolling around on the bed yelling “Get it out of me, please. Just get it out!” Once all of that had been cleared, I felt as if God spoke to me. It wasn’t auditory, but I knew there was a message. The downloads came hard and fast. Then I felt as if my body was hooked to an electric grid and pumped full of eternal and Unconditional Love. My physical body convulsed on the bed. I had never known Love could run so deep. 

Slowly, this dimension came back into focus. I was lying there on the bed in a puddle of joyful tears. It took me a good 15 minutes to muster the energy to sit up. I felt as if I had been reborn, but this time I was conscious of where I came from. This medicine was very different from Ibogaine. Once it had metabolized in my body, I was back. No fog. Crystal clear focus. I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my chest. I breathed in deeply and took the fullest breath possible. Every fear-based emotion had been lifted and replaced with pure Love and Gratitude. I looked around the room with a child’s curiosity. I ate a piece of fruit and it was the most magical thing I’d ever experienced. 

Throughout the ceremony, there was a guided playlist meant to help people on their journey. The song that came on when I returned was In Dreams by Jai-Jagdeesh. It truly tied a bow on the entire weekend for me. It was a synthesis of every download…

Know you are loved…
Rest in peace
Dream your sweet dreams
‘Til your soul is released

Beloved child
My heart is yours
Beloved child
Go out and open doors
With your love
With your faith
With your compassion
With your grace
Oh, with your grace…

Beloved child
You are the light of the world
Beloved child…
Go out, spread light to the world
Be strong, be kind, be brave
Know your mind
Know that you’re are divine
Know that it’s alright to be afraid

They brought me to a quiet room where I was given some alone time to sit with my feelings. I couldn’t even sit down. I wrote down what I interpreted as my new purpose and rules to live by:

  1. “Go out into the world without Fear and bring Light and Love to those presented in your path.”
  2. “What you do to others, you do to yourself. What you do for others, you do for yourself”
  3. “You are Love. You have always been Love. Love is Home. Home exists in the present moment”
  4. “Separation is a lie based in Fear. Every living being is an aspect of God, an earthly embodiment of Love”
  5. “Do your best to withhold judgment. If you experienced the totality of someone else life, you would make the same decisions. Judgment separates you from others and from Love.”
  6. “Do not use this knowledge to become righteous. All ideologies and dogmas come from a place of Love, but simply lose their way over time. If an ideology or dogma leads you to do anything but love without condition, it is not Truth. What is True is always True regardless of situation.”
  7. “Your purpose is simple. Love and Serve with a full heart.”

It’s been a little over three weeks since the ceremony. My life is unrecognizable. I’m simply not the person I was. I’ve become the best version of myself possible. Here are just a few examples:

  1. My mind is quiet. The negative feedback loops don’t exist. My relationship with my ego is positive.
  2. I am aware of my energy and the energy of those around me. I can recognize when I’m holding energy that doesn’t serve me, ground myself, and release it.
  3. I wake up each day overflowing with gratitude. I have too many blessings to count.
  4. Now that I’ve cleared all of the fear-based emotions from my body, I have space for authentic relationships. I have a second chance with my wife and children. They are the most important aspects of my world. I can easily give and receive Love.
  5. I am laser-focused. The mental fog is gone. My memory is back and better than ever. 
  6. All of my physical anxiety symptoms are gone and I have no desire for medication or alcohol.
  7. I’m sleeping without interruption. My dreams are vivid and beautiful. 
  8. I’m truly happy! I am in Love with life and life Loves me back.

What started out as a simple reflection of my experience has grown into a cathartic release. If you are reading this and it resonates with you, I implore you to contact me for more information. These beautiful medicines have such a synergistic effect on the mind, body, and soul. I truly believe that it has the potential to heal not only the veteran community but the world. If we all shared the perspective of being different aspects of the same Source, we could overcome the myth of separation and lift each other up. We could all see the never-ending beauty that exists in each moment and prioritize Love over material success. We could end all wars. We could stop reaching for a “heaven” and realize that it exists right here and now.

Thank you, to everyone that has supported me through my journey. The list is too long to type. You know who you are. I love you always!

To all of the amazing veteran organizations sponsoring plant medicine opportunities, thank you! The countless hours you dedicate to raising awareness, philanthropy, and dollars for clinical research is not going unnoticed. You are saving lives! 

Special Thanks To:
Martin Polanco, MD – Founder of Mission Within

Jesse Gould – Founder of Heroic Hearts Project

Amber and Marcus Capone – Founders of Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS)