How Many Times Are You Willing To Die In This Life?

By Nick Polizzi

There’s a saying that’s been following me around for the past decade, ever since I began to embrace the spirit path.

“You’ve gotta pay to play.”

This notion is usually associated with casino games, but it holds true for the metaphysical things in life too.

The shamanic path is not for the faint of heart.  It requires a willingness to face the looming sentinels that guard each gate of wisdom, an illogical calmness in the face of every challenge that life unfurls on your path to truth.

I’ve heard it said that the wise soul dies many times in this life, shedding countless skins of past selves, like old clothes that no longer fit. It keeps what is necessary to serve the mission, and discards the rest, learning to abandon sentimentality and attachment along the way.

How many times are you willing to die in this life?

A common thread that all medicine traditions of the Americas share is the understanding that you must face your demons and go through a series of very real metamorphosis in order to achieve and maintain your spiritual and physical health. But this means doing “the work,” which isn’t always comfy.

One afternoon, before entering an Ayahuasca ceremony, I was sitting in my jungle hammock quietly dreading what I was about to put myself through… again. For me, the dying usually involves walking into ceremonies led by elders who are quite adept at showing you your lingering shadows, whether you like it or not.

Just then, Roman Hanis (an Amazonian medicine man and close friend of mine) entered the room and flopped down on a neighboring hammock. He glanced over at me and immediately noticed the tangle of trepidation I was caught up in.

“Nick, you’re falling prey to the belief that this path will magically become easier someday. Do you think that I have conquered my fear of Ayahuasca?  I’ve held over 2000 ceremonies, and the fear comes up for me before every single one. But, I check my ego at the door when I walk into the maloka and do as pachamama guides me to do anyway. This is what it takes to walk the path – it isn’t play time.”

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You’ve gotta pay to play.  The currency in this game isn’t money, it is courage.

Last week, I was up in the hills overlooking the ancient city of Copan, Honduras to participate in a Maya temazcal ceremony.  If you’re not familiar with this type of cleansing ritual, a temazcal is the Mesoamerican version of the sweat lodge, but involves the use of herbal waters and volcanic clay as well.  During the ceremony, the tightly packed igloo-shaped dome becomes extremely hot, extremely dark, and extremely closed-in.  Not surprisingly, many folks find the experience a bit overwhelming and uncomfortable at times.

For me, this is the ultimate test because I’ve got a deep fear of enclosed spaces and really dislike intense heat. But we’re on a mission to preserve this ancient wisdom and help people heal – and like most things in native culture…you’ve gotta pay to play.

Zoila, the Maya medicine woman who holds the temazcal, always has us burn nine candles of varying colors before the ceremony starts. Every color of the rainbow is represented in these drippy offerings and each waxed wick burns with its own meaning.  The one that is most relevant to today’s subject is the purple candle.

Holding the lit candle between her fingertips, Zoila tells us that the purple or celestio colored wax represents our willingness to make compromises with ourselves and with the ever-present unknown. In other words, our capacity to be brave and enter those dark places that lurk in the caverns of our mind, awaiting our love and consciousness.

The compromise itself is an agreement with that part of our self that abhors discomfort, and anything unpredictable.  A conversation that our illuminated being has with the machine that we currently inhabit, “Let me travel to this place for a little while, even though it might be scary and unfamiliar, so that I can heal this body and heart of ours.”

Once the candles have all been lit, twenty red hot rocks are shoveled from a forest fire pit and placed in the center of the temazcal circle. The small door to the world outside is shut, signaling that the ceremony has officially begun.

Nobody said this path was easy.  How far are you willing to go? 

In other words, how much are you willing to pay?

Stay curious,

Nick Polizzi
Director, The Sacred Science

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79 Responses

  1. Nick, I’m continually amazed by the wisdom you impart on these posts. Please continue sharing and know that your efforts are reaching others in a helpful manner…and at great distances as well.

  2. Interesting question, most don’t ask that. For me how many I am not sure applies, most of this life I have been ready without the fears that many have of death. Most see death as an end, I know better it is merely another doorway, if you would.

  3. Pain and fear needs to be respected and we have to learn how to use them, not let them use us, the path of life gets easier as soon we understand that oneself is an individual and the energy is limited, use your day proficiently feed your self with the gifts of pachamama (mother earth) and thank the universe for every little gift that is given to you. Nick thanks for walking the least travelled path and for sharing your perceptions of it.

  4. Nick,

    What an amazing experience, I imagine there are many shifts that occur after such a ceremony. Thank you for sharing it, as there are no coincidences, it could not have come at a more relevant time for me.

  5. Hello Nick. I have only been following you a few months, having purchased the set of DVDs which I am just watching. I have spent the last six years travelling to Berkeley and the last trip was in the fall. If I had only known you were there! Ian curious about ayahuasca ceremonies and would like t,hear more.

  6. Firstly your messages are so helpful as are the comments and secondly it is such a pleasure that you are not selling something as virtually every other site does .


  7. I did the ayuahasca experience last summer at a spirit quest for 17 days in Peru. I learned there is no death and there is nothing to fear. I learned a deeper love for myself and for my felo humans. This changed my iife forever

  8. Living this truth takes strength and courage each and every day. We look to others who have walked this path not for how to do it, but that it can be done. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences.

  9. Dear Nick…all I can say is THANK YOU for taking us on yet another journey of wisdom…I’m going through some difficult times and it’s sometimes hard to go within and ignore the circumstances on the outside…thank you SO much for the reminder of what I must do…Namaste…Naomi

  10. Hi Nick, I am contemplating stepping upon the shamanic path. I have found what you are doing to be of great insight and helps me prepare for my choices. Thanks

  11. The truest answer – I don’t really know. But I am always willing to try and to travel a little bit further every day. And, when called upon, I sometimes succeed even in leaping.

  12. Thank you for that wonderful letter ,the experince you had ,well is very perdonal but life cahanging or better yet tranforming ,i many years ago was able to have a chance with this type of medicine ,as you venture into the darkness , feeling of the enclosure ,opened to see the stars so many stars .i hope to find a chance to do this again ,

  13. Thank you…I am a healer, massage therapist now for two years. Since accepting my personal legend as a healer, I have begun this path of courage to serve as a stronger healer to those that come to me. I am in search of sweat lodges…please contact me if you can help me find my next tool.

  14. Dear Nick;

    No matter how turbulent a particular day may be, and whatever metamorphosis I may be experiencing, your posts are always like a light at the end of the tunnel to show me the way. Clearly, you have paid much- many times. Your wisdom and insight are bought with a great price. And yet- you encourage each of us to follow your example of courage and faith with the end result of empowerment and LOVE for one another- and ourselves.

    May God Continue to Richly Bless You, Nick!

    Queen Dreama

  15. I absolutely love the part you wrote about the “illuminated being” in ourselves having the conversation “with the machine that we currently inhabit, ‘Let me travel to this place for a little while, even though it might be scary and unfamiliar, so that I can heal this body and heart or ours.”‘ Your putting it like that just made it so much easier for my spiritual self to calm down the ego self enough that I can now go forward. Thank You Nick! I love hearing about your work. Blessings

  16. The fear of the unknown keeps us away from being daring, but you are right, it takes a lot of courage. Thanks

  17. I so resonate with the wisdom and knowledge you impart. It truly keeps me on my spiritual path, a path that keeps evolving and subtle but profound changes occur in me. Today, the key words that stand out for me are the “illogical calm” when everything feels so scary and create anxiety and yet I keep going, keep facing things I don’t understand because of this constant “illogical calm” that does seem to be ever present. Thank you for your wisdom, inspiration, sharing. Judy

  18. Your words are both inspiring and curious. I will continue to read and take in what you offer. Nick be well and again Thank You!

  19. Thanks Nick for sharing your journey. You truly have been blessed with coming into knowing the wonderful people you have come to know in your journey. The emptiness I have is from a disconnect from my ancestors, from myself, from nature. I hope to one day find such connections along my journey called life. Stay wonderful!

  20. Thanks so much for sharing this wisdom. I often wonder why I feel so alone on this journey of healing and being one who shows others the door that opens to their healing journey.

    1. Aloha Grace, We are never alone as we walk this path, we need times to ourselves so we can work through our own personal growth however there are countless others walking along in the energies of Spirit and in the energies of the Human Spirit. Reach out and ask Mother Earth to open the doorways to enable you to link up with others in your area. We are everywhere. Namaste Nette

  21. Hi Nick, I would love to learn more about the Temazcal, especially the meanings of the nine candles. Do you have any suggestions as to where i could go to explore this more deeply?


  22. I have withdrawn from the world and into my family, and how much I have to pay to leave a legacy worth leaving remains to be seen.

  23. Thanks Nick,

    Beautifully written. I had my first session of Ayahuasca just over a year ago. It was terrifying beyond description. I thought I was about to die but that was a relief. I spent three days following moping in bed. I travelled from Australia to Peru specifically for this. After the first session I swore I’d never touch another drop in a million years. After three days of encouragement from some loving friends and a pile of courage I participated in another session. This time amazing. Power, healing, deeply challenging and difficult. But beautiful. Over the last year I’ve been wanting to return but still fear it very much. It’s impossible to describe the experience. Your article is very encouraging and I understand what you mean by it. Thank you.

  24. I am wondering if you approach every Shamanic Journey with the joy of anticipation, where you look forward to locating the hidden fears and the layers they hide amongst does that make a difference?

  25. Thanks Nick back to reality…to reevaluate is not a bad thing…positive in our recreation / co-creation,of our majickal being.

  26. Courage and commitment are key. Your work and the sharing of insights is so valuable. THANK YOU FROM THE DEPSTHS OF MY SOUL!!!

  27. Nick, I’m so grateful for your posts and your willingness to share the information you gather. One universal karmic law is that you can’t give anything away ~ it’s always returned, threefold. Thus, you are very blessed indeed. Thank you, my friend.

  28. I am surprised that you use the word “compromise” here in English, though I understand that “compromise” would be the correct word in Spanish, usually translated as “promise.” since “compromise” in English also has the connotation of a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial

    1. oops. I meant “compromiso” in Spanish. The electronic secretary mis-corrected my typing. I love the idea of a promise to oneself, to other humans, to spirit. A sacred commitment.

  29. The Shamanic path requires a connection to the Creator. When there’s a connection to the Creator, there is no fear of death.

  30. Thanks for sharing with us and also thanks for all the enlightening comments of people. It is interesting to see that we die and are born again every instant. Living in the “here and now” is the proof that we are leaving things in the past and being born for the future.

    As a Peruvian, I also find interesting to read all the comments about experiences with Ayahuasca, something I have not dared to do. Could you illustrate us on it? I mean… what would be sort of “the requirements” to do it? Dangers involved? Many thanks!

  31. Thank you very much for your words of wisdom. I know that it is not easy to make sacrifices for any spiritual advancement. I only pray that I continually have the needed courage and strength to continue.

  32. Ayahuasca As a student of “A Course In Miracles”, Jesus has given us a way which is simple but not easy; however, IMHO, much preferred to taking Ayahuasca. To each his own…as long as “the Real World” is reached by all with the least delay possible. Cheers!

  33. This is just what I needed to read. Thank you so much. I have been going through some cchallenges and now it is clear.

  34. my own morning began with the feeling: “disarray”. Your blog sharing is so relevant. Whether or not we are doing “formal ceremonies” like those you describe, it seems this process is rolling in and on……

  35. My interpretation of this has always been that it is a reminder that we CHOOSE any path we take. You are presented over and over with the choice to walk a different path. Your fears bring that choice to your consciousness prior to each step. You examine your choices, and enter the ceremony. That freedom to choose makes all the difference.

  36. Am paying and still willing. The shedding is somewhat like coming out of comfort zones.

  37. Nick, this sounds like a very intense ceremony. It also sound s like something I might be willing to expereience. Are these ceremonies or other similar ceremonies available to there general public?

  38. Nick, thank you for sharing your very timely profound wisdom as it is perfect for the upcoming Full Moon is Scorpio on May 3-4. I’ve walked through many of my deep fears during my 1st Ayahuasca ritual with a Peruvian Shaman. and in my every day life, coming face to face with my demons who I now thank for triggering my courage to walk into unknown fires, only to find myself out on the other side reborn into another aspect of my rotating soul, ready to show up and be of service. I’m always in awe at how many layers are shed one, sometime two, each time we are willing to experience the fear and discomfort of the process. I am now enjoying
    my third lifetime on this beautiful planet, and your wisdom and words are inspiring me to be ready to shed yet another layer. Thank you for being YOU!

  39. I love reading your writings and hearing about the wide variety of practices you participate in.

  40. Interestingly enough, but I am most certain, it was no accident, Zoila handed the purple candle to me and one other to light. At this time, it seemed to be the most appropriate and befitting messenger flame for me:)
    Since returning home, I have been diligently working to sort through, box up, and remove legal papers that no longer serve any purpose for me, make the necessary steps to complete my new legal name change after 26 years, organize my garage, get my home office set up, and see what Adventure calls me next!!

    1. I am determined to have the proper ayahuasca ceremony yet have been considering experiencing it locally. As for the name change, I agree coming from a different thought process. Can you tell me what drives you to change your name? And would it make sense to you to change it Lawfully rather than legally as in a Baptism?

  41. As always, just well timed read sent by the universe !! This topic is exactly what I was
    pondering about today…

    Indeed, this is not an easy path. I bow with all the respect to each and every soul who has chosen and is on this path…Thank you so very much Nick for all that you do..

  42. I am willing to die/transform as many times as it takes to rid myself of Ego, Fear, Shame, Guilt, and Disease even the thought of the process still evokes alot of fear- even though I feel like I have already died many times already! I desire total Love, Peace, and Joy…and Acceptance in my Whole Being. ♡♡♡

  43. Hi Nick,

    What period of time are you talking about this taking ???. I have friends who have done Ayahuasca
    under different circumstances, both in Peru, and in Thailand. They seem to do a different process
    than the one you are describing. I would be interested in more info and so would my friend as he might want to come over.



  44. Never get our of the boat…unless you are going all the way’ great quote from apocalypse now- movie ..
    I have struggled with this …. I love the spiritual world and I love the physical.
    I have had moments when lucid dreaming when I struggle with fear. I had 300 boxing matches but the unknown and darkness is a lonely place. A guide would help perhaps… One day 🙂

    Best wishes x

  45. I have training the Sun Bear tradition of the sweat lodge and used to help organize sweet lodges back east in DE. I now live in AZ in USA and would love to find if it is at all possible to visit and continue my healing. I have now reached a point in my life where I need the healing powers like the ones you speak of. To die and be reborn.

  46. Even as a young child I alwalys asked myself why was I here on this earth. I had lots of bad things happen to me as a young child all the way to a very bad abusive marriage. I just always pulled through eveything that has happen to me and still believe that all people are not bad and I always forgave those who hurt me. Now after being divoreced for over 5 years I feel something is missing I seek what is my purpose here on earth. I find all your information very informative. thank you

  47. I have always been afraid to die what it would feel like ?. Will it be difficult to let go or easy because of pain or tiredness. So many have gone before me perhaps it will not be that hard.

  48. Hey Nick, I have a question to ask. I was rescued from the streets on my 18th birthday by a medicine man that introduced me to this path of medicine. I have died and re birthed my self so many times from rape,homeless, abuse, loss of child, almost murdered, metal hospital, dug abuse, loss of everything fiscal and others and having to rebuild my self over and over and over again. I have been in over 200 Ayahuasca ceremonies and have helped in medicine clinics of this sort, evan helped to build one in Mexico. its as if the universe has had me walk in so many different shoes to understand whats its like for the people around me and for the person that suffers. Its as if Im having to walk through these door ways of pain to gain my next level of love and consciousness and uderstanding. I guess I’m wondering what to do now, i have token a brake from he medicine for a bit and am scared to go back into ceremony i alway return and always do my work but things are different now. i keep asking what am i doing and what is this all for. I believe the best doctors are the ones that have gone through many illnesses but I’m tired and want to fully walk with the medicine with courage and no fear. I’m afraid to step into the light of ware i need to go with this. do you have anyone i can talk to about this? what this all for? Im on the shamanic path and feel i was born for this and been training for this my hole life.

  49. I have taken the Ayahuasca four times. The first time it was bliss, I didn’t feel sick and I experienced bliss with much peace and x-ray like vision. I felt sick instantly and threw up and continued in bliss till I fell sleep and woke up feeling wonderful the next morning. The second time I felt terrible and I experienced death for a second. I found comfort and healing instantly when I touched the grass with my bear feet. The Third time I experienced death for a long time and when I returned I was sooooo happy to be alive again! I proposed to you this idea: What if we actually die every night when we go into a deep sleep for a second or more and then comeback again to this reality, several times a night?

  50. I really enjoy reading your texts. I love how grounded and connected the messages are around life and ceremony. I used to do medicine and sweat lodges, but have not been during the last year, working with life and humans in my own way. Reading your insights keeps me connected to something which feels good. Thank you so much for what you share.

  51. Thank you Nick Polizzi for your insights & sharing. It is truly inspirational & refreshing in light of what is ailing & missing within the Western culture. Your insights are truly inspirational. I would dearly love to embrace the experiences depicted within your documentary. I find a deep knowing of many things, for which I have no tangible rational for; yet they exist within. I have had the unrequited burning desire to fully embrace the experience you share for a long time, but fear not finding authenticity, due to the western influences on these traditional societies. If there is a program or way of going to the same place (as in your documentary) I would be indebted to you, if you could help me?

    1. Hi Bryan, look for “The Temple of The Way of Light” in Peru. Their healers are mainly women of the Shipibo tribe. They are all you seek and more. They have a youtube channel full of testimonies from people of all walks of life. If you do nothing else just watch those and you will feel the place & their integrity shining through. Love & light brother x

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