Ayahuasca is a brew from the depths of the Amazon jungle that has been used for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years for healing and spiritual purposes.
So what is it really? Is it a drug? Is it safe? Is it right for you?
These are just some of the questions that form in people’s minds when they hear of this plant medicine. It has been said to heal, it has been said to cure, it has been said to relieve people from their past and help them move on with strength and with much more clarity into the future.
Physically speaking, in it’s purest form, it’s a brew of the combination of two plants: The Ayahuasca vine and the Chakruna leaves (these contain DMT) It is when those two ingredients are combined and brewed for a prolonged period of time that we get the final medicine – The Ayahuasca Plant Medicine.
Once you start working with this medicine, you will realise that you’re working with a spirit to help you to heal, to help you to understand or to help you with something else you may be looking for.
(I know for some of you the idea of working with a spirit might sound pretty crazy, but that’s really what you tend to realise when you undergo this experience, you also soon realise that it is very much a feminine spirit)
Often times you will actually feel her start working with you in a subtle way from the moment you decide to have this experience.
As for describing the actual experiences with Ayahuasca, soon after drinking, you are usually met with visions. You may see her in many forms through your variation of journeys. This depends on the experience you’re having and what the lesson or the vision is about.
For example, for me at one stage she was a teacher writing on the board and I was an eager student, sometimes she would be a neighbour, then a housemate as she was teaching me a lesson about relationships, then she was a little girl and we would play together, sometimes we would be watching a dancer together and she would be like a friend, teaching me about having no judgement, sometimes she would be a cleaner as I would feel her moving through my body and cleaning out my whole system (I was both seeing it and feeling it) and then seeing her then come out as a big watery blob after she asked me if I wanted to see her. She comes in many forms (sometimes you might not see her at all), but I’d say you’d at least be able to get a sense of her feminine energy soon after your experience will begin, which will then unfold more through out the night.
Is it a drug?
I don’t think so. Actually I’d say anyone who fully experiences it, even for one night will tell you that Ayahuasca is a medicine.
The label “drug” (the meaning that we tend to give that word) tends to be perceived as something from which we can get addicted and make actions and decisions from which our life degrades and worsens. Ayahausca leads people in the opposite direction and one only needs to look at countless stories from those sharing their experiences after working with Ayahuasca to be able to tell for themselves whether it his something that degraded their life or improved it. Time and time again you will hear of people sharing how much it improved their lives and helped them heal.
Is it the right choice for you?
Typically, once a year we run Ayahuasca retreats to the Amazon and we get plenty of eager applicants. Looking through enquiries, calling people up and helping them to decide whether it really is for them or not, is a crucial part of my work. Some people are not quite ready and I would suggest something different for them.
Some people see it as a magic pill. They might not be happy in life, struggling through some challenges and they think Ayahausca is the answer to all their problems.
Actually, Ayahuasca is not a miracle cure in the sense that you drink the brew and all your troubles disappear within a couple of hours. It could be referred to as a miracle though, in the sense that it brings unconscious and seemingly other-dimensional processes to surface, allowing you to work through the presenting problem in your life while the effect of the medicine lasts through the ceremony. It gives you a way to do “the work” within yourself so those troubles can disappear. Whether they will depends on you, whether you’re willing to let go, whether you’re willing to explore the issue further, looking at it, then seeing what you may not be fully comfortable with and still moving through it. I don’t believe that drinking Ayahuasca is right for everyone at all stages in their lives. I believe it is something that someone has to be ready for.
Some people just hear the call and know right away they are going. They have researched this medicine, they know they may have to face the darkest parts of themselves in the process and yet they feel it is time to go (and though they may be scared), they know they hear the call and they go. They send through the expression of interest form for our retreat and I get on the phone with them and I see it’s a match. I then help them as a guide and coach so they can get organised, prepare themselves on three levels for the experience, help them through the retreat, assist after and do a number of other things to help. It’s a process and I find it worthwhile for someone to get the most out of their experience.
In this article I wish to share with those of you who are hearing this call, a guide. It’s one article of a few I have written to help you to journey safe, journey deep and learn how to best prepare yourself to truly get the most out of this experience with Ayahuasca.
The medicine itself has been shown to be relatively safe. For it to be lethal, one would have to take about 20 times the ceremonial dose. Alcohol, as a comparison taken at 10 times the normal serving can be deadly. Brain scans of Ayahuasca users also show that the brew doesn’t have a neurotoxic effect.
The main risks relating to Ayahausca are psychological.
There have been a very small number of occurrences where willing journeyers go to work with Ayahuasca, but are treated in a way that endangers their safety. The majority of retreats are in the Amazon jungle, which is where the ceremonies tend to be the most powerful and eye-opening.
There have been a small number of deaths at retreats where someone may not have been screened properly in terms of physical and mental health prior to being accepted into the retreat, might have been taking antidepressants too close to taking the Ayahuasca, other plants have been added to the brew that shouldn’t have been there (this is the most common danger) or they might not have been looked after with due care.
At times the shamans may also not have the participants’ best interests in mind, which could of-course lead to some pretty dangerous circumstances. This is very rare for things like these to happen, but still. I believe it is crucial to know that where you’re going, you will be safe, you will be looked after and the shamans and others you are working with are skilled and are there for you fully.
Get Some Support
You may choose to go with someone. I recommend this. Having someone to travel with you to the retreat, someone you can trust and who has worked with Ayahuasca on many occasions previously and preferably knows the language and somewhere definitely safe to go is a huge benefit. Having someone around to open up to and work through with you on what’s going on from start to finish can be a big difference too. A friend who fits the above criteria works, but remember they might also have their own experience to deal with and may actually need more help than you. Many retreat centres serving Ayahuasca thankfully have someone you can speak to between your journeys.
Best of all though, get a trained coach who has worked with Ayahausca many times before and can confidently support you to help you from the very start, months before your retreat, throughout the retreat and past the integration process. We have found that this helps someone get the most of their experience as a whole.
In Peru, the local language is Spanish. When we take our Journey to the Inside groups over to Peru for our retreats, we start up a Club in Duolingo (it’s an App, look it up!) to learn Spanish. It can be a fun experience and knowing Spanish will help you if you’re planning to travel around after your retreat or even getting to and from your retreat. Peru is a beautiful place to visit and travel in and even knowing a little of the language can go a long way. With most retreats – once you’re at the retreat itself, you’re ok speaking English 🙂
Preparing Your Body
With the Ayahuasca medicine, there is an important process to follow if you want to get the most out of the experience. Although there are exceptions (as with anything), the general pattern I see is those who prepare for the experience well, such as prepare the body, are able to go deeper, get the most healing done, and generally have the most visual / intense experiences. If you want to make the most of your experience, why not do the best you can in preparing for it? The medicine always meets you half way. Ayahuasca won’t do everything for you. Its a mix of joint efforts.
Adjusting your diet can be very important prior to your experience. Avoiding some things can help you to journey deeper, other things to help you to be safe (as some foods/drinks should NOT be mixed with Ayahausca), and the rest are useful to make the purging process easier.
Here’s what to avoid 2 (or more) weeks before and after the retreat:
Eliminate pork and red meat, salted & fried foods (coconut oil and Himalayan salt are ok in small quantities), caffeine, refined sugars, soy products, dietary protein supplements, chocolate, smoked foods, spices, dairy, alcohol, drugs, foods that are fermented, desiccated, aged or overripe.
Stick to what information your centre gives you on diet and if you have any questions, be sure to ask.
Kambo is another Spirit medicine, rather different to work with to Ayahausca. It is a cleansing medicine, a frog secretion. We hold sessions with this medicine around Australia and abroad.
Doing this medicine cleanse before Ayahuasca will help you to clear out the toxins from your body so that when it is time to work with mother Ayahausca you can go deep and have more control of the experience (by control I mean you can ask questions and get answers more easily inside your experience and explore what you want to inside yourself with more ease).
During the first one or more sessions of Ayahuasca people often experience a ‘cleansing’, this means a lot of purging release (similar to vomiting) as Ayahausca cleans you out prior to journeying with you and showing you what’s most important for you to know in life right now.
Doing a session or more with Kambo prior typically allows you to journey more with Ayahuasca right away, seeing more of the beautiful colours, visuals and experiences, rather than going through a heavy cleaning process of purging and heaviness. Kambo can do a lot of this work with your prior to working with Ayahuasca, so it can be very useful in this sense.
You can find out more about Kambo at www.journeytotheinside.com.au/kambo
Preparing Your Mind
HEALH & MEDICATION
It’s important to ensure you’re safe to work with Ayahuasca. There are some mental (and physical conditions) that are not ok when working with her (such as schizophrenia and bipolar). There are also a number of medications (such as amphetamines, allergy medications, prozac and many more) that can’t be taken at the same time or close to the Ayahuasca experience. If you’re taking any medication always disclose this on your Ayahausca retreat application and the retreat will help you from there.
Start a meditation practice before you go, this will not only help you to prepare and sit the ceremonies, but will also help you afterwards in the integration phase too.
Refrain from sex for 2 weeks prior to the ceremony and 2 weeks after. Before and after your experience you will want to be careful who you mix with energetically with for a little while. You want to give yourself time to process – it’s worth the wait 🙂 Even sexual contact with a long-term partner you love and trust you may want to avoid 2 weeks before and after. Also avoid self sex.
In Asia this process of abstinence is called reserving one’s chi (life force), which is about cultivating energy. This force is the kind of force that can break through bricks, do things that seem next to impossible. If you’re after a truly amazing experience with Ayahuasca, you may want to consider about 6 or even 8 weeks being abstinent, either side of the experience.
Avoid watching/ listening to traumatic movies and music – scary movies, war movies, low-vibrational movies and music etc. Also avoid putting yourself into too many stressful situations and potential negative experiences for at least two weeks before and after, do as best as you can.
As a minimum, you may want to take at least three days off work and/or stress before your retreat and at least one week after to yourself.
For example for afterwards you could travel in the nearby area (Cusco, an Incan city in Peru and the nearby Sacred Valley) I find these places are perfect to go to after your retreat to integrate and relax). Alternatively you could fly back home and have a peaceful week there, opt to have the entire week to yourself (or with minimal contact with others). Be also choosy who you spend time with right after the retreat and spend plenty of time in nature if you can. Choose situations that will most likely be peaceful and gentle on you. Gift yourself that week of peace before returning to work or other activities with a lot of people or stressful situations. It allows you time to gather your thoughts, for any more messages to come through and also allows space for anything else that you need to do on your return.
Speaking to Loved Ones
Most or at least some of the people you know will probably be a little confused about your decision to work with this medicine, some may be frightened by your choice.
Parents are often frightened for your safety, spouses are often frightened of the change you’re going through and that you might change after your experience and maybe even leave for good. In some cases they may be happy and excited for you, but in almost every case there will be some sort of fear lingering for the unknown of what may happen after you are back, if you will come back, if you will be ok. Remember to reassure them.
Regarding parents (I find most relevant for those under 30/35) – I would tell them the basics (or the the full details depending on your relationship) of what you are planning to do and assure them you will be somewhere safe (and make sure you do go somewhere safe!) Hand over a contact email of the centre or your guide/coach that will be taking you over to the retreat with them. Email them when you arrive and let them know you will be out of touch for the length of the retreat.
Partners – I would suggest being fully open with them. Let them know how important this is for you. You can email them when touching down in Peru and let them know you will be out of touch until the retreat is over.
It is VERY important that during your Ayahuasca retreat you turn off your phone and disconnect from the world you usually live in. This is, disconnect from the social environment online and if you run a business, ensure you get someone to look after your work while you’re gone. I can’t stress this enough – the importance of FULLY DISCONNECTING from the world you usually live in and open up to what the spirits of the forest and mother Ayahausca have to share with you.
What’s next for you?
I hope that this article has acted as a useful guide for Journeying with Mother Ayahuasca.
For more assistance, check out related articles here
I would also love to share with you my latest book: “Lessons from the Spirit World: Your Guide to Journeying with Ayahuasca” You can grab a free downloadable version of it here
In my experience, working with Ayahausca has been one of the most, if not the most profound experiences of my life. I would love to share more with you to help you in your Ayahuasca journeys, share lessons I have learnt from her during my experiences and help you out in your healing journey as a whole.
Feel free to stay in touch with us and can also check out our next Ayahuasca retreat here
Lots of Love!