~ What is Ayahuasca ~
Ayahuasca is a medicinal brew, which has been used by indigenous people of the Amazon for millennia. Their healers used it to see the sickness and find the corresponding plant that could cure it, by entering into an altered state of consciousness. As well, decisions for the whole tribe used to be made upon the Ayahuasquero’s visions, in regards to where to hunt for example, or when to defend themselves from the enemies and when to rest and celebrate. It is a sacred alchemy of two plants: Banisteriopsis caapi, a jungle liana, also known as ayahuasca on its own; and chacruna leaves, which contain DMT. The vine of ayahuasca contains MAO inhibitors, which allow for the DMT to stay in the blood for few hours and not be digested in the stomach.
Ayahuasca is an expander of consciousness, which facilitates modified states of perception, and opens one to a rich and intense internal healing work. Scientists are beginning to uncover finally the healing properties of this amazing brew; studies done in 2015 have shown that it activates the area of the brain corresponding with the subconscious mind, which in effect allows us to take a good look at the patterns of our behaviour, subconscious programming we have, unhealed traumas and deeply buried emotions.
Ayahuasca is considered to be The Mother Plant during traditional jungle Dieta retreats and assists in the releasing of emotional blocks, opening of the heart, in the confronting and dissolving of most profound fears and ego. Combined with other herbs, it highlights their properties and magnifies their effects.
Through ingesting this medicinal tea, one has an opportunity for deep psychological and physiological cleansing. During Ayahuasca ceremony this process is called purging or “limpia” and can manifest itself in many forms on the physical level, but also as feelings or reflections about the past, pictures and visions that come up to the surface, representing different issues, of which we can gain a deeper understanding.
Participating in traditional ayahuasca ceremonies allows for a profound opportunity to establish a legitimate and life changing knowledge of the inner and outer cosmos and is a gift of healing for body, mind and spirit. It allows for direct connection with the Higher Self and understanding of life’s purpose. In some cases, incredible knowledge and wisdom are received, specific guidance or tools for healing and helping others. Some people report having their psychic abilities activated through drinking ayahuasca, connection with other, extraterrestial beings and visitations from spirits of relatives that passed away.
If you plan to drink this medicine for the first time, make sure to meet the Teacher Plant, as well as the culture, which developed this way of healing, with lots of respect. Remain humble; be brave and positive and let the plant do the work it has to do – whatever that may be in any specific moment. Don’t try to control or force anything – just allow the energy to flow through you, be grateful and give it love – it is a sacred meeting with YOURSEF!
For more in-depth information, we strongly advice to read the Ayahuasca Manifesto, available for free on the internet, translated to several languages. The Manifesto has been channelled by Don Jose Campos, of the most known Master Shamans from Peru, and it is a detailed information about Ayahuasca from the Spirit of the medicine Herself!
~ Ayahuasca Ceremonies ~
There are different traditions in different countries, so the tribal rituals in Peru or Columbia, can be very different from Santo Daime Ceremonies in Brazil for example. But there are some general things, which apply to most.
For the ritual, all participants typically sit in a circle. They are each invited one by one to seat in front of the Ayahuasquero (the ceremony facilitator) to drink a portion of the plant medicine (one portion is about 50ml); after that, all lights are usually switched off.
Tobacco is also a very strong medicine, often being used in conjunction with Ayahuasca. It is greatly appreciated amongst shamans for its protecting and grounding power, as well as ability to connect with other spirits, clearing the pathway for The Master Plant and removing blockages. Tobacco may be offered in a form of “Rapee” (pronounced “hapay”) – a powdered medicine, blown into nostrils; as a brew (when ingested in that form, it is known as a Tobacco Purge and can be taken in a separate ceremony preceding the Ayahuasca Ceremony), or blown as a smoke on each participant. You may notice it being used many times in the Sacred Circle.
During every ceremony, one of the key elements is music – it acts as a guiding light on the journey within; you may hear traditional tribal medicine songs called IKAROS, which call in the spirits of the master plants; there will also be other gentle music and songs, all designed to deepen the heart connection and aid the healing. The facilitators may play on various instruments, which can also enhance the overall experience. Occasionally there may be moments of total silence. At some ceremonies participants are also invited to share songs, but only after previously made arrangement with the facilitators and with permission (the timing of particular music may be very important, so it has to be consulted).
It is worth to approach the ceremony very consciously, as if you’re going to a meeting with a Great Master. Think carefully about your intention. If you could meet with The Source/ God/ Creator, what would you ask? You may have one or more personal intentions and questions, but they will also not necessarily be answered… Try not to worry much about them and trust that The Teacher sees exactly what you need and sometimes will give you something, which you did not consider, but it would be a priority. She can then come back to your questions later on, or at the next ceremony (it’s a feminine spirit, hence a “she”)
Don’t be too anxious about visualising things, some experiences are based on bodily sensations or hearing some messages, if you don’t have visions, it doesn’t mean anything, certainly not that the Medicine isn’t working! Best thing to do at the beginning, is to simply let it flow without classifying. The person who leads through the session, takes care that everything turns out well. Every person and every session follows its own process and its effects are always different. Also, remember that the medicine will stay in your system for a while (up to 3 months), thus many learnings may come from dreams and reflections, even many days after the ceremony.
If you have any energetic or emotional blockages in your body, it is likely that the plant will find them and assist you in removing them for your benefit. The release is what we refer to as purging or “limpia”, and on the physical level may manifest itself as vomiting, diarrhoea or crying, sometimes laughing, coughing, shaking, runny nose, perhaps you will yawn a lot, breath very deeply or may even feel like screaming – these are all absolutely normal reactions, and good signs that you’re letting go of unwanted energies. Whatever process you’re going to have, flow with it and don’t hold back; however please consider other participants as well, so if for example you will feel like screaming or laughing really loud, it’s good to use a pillow or blanket to cover your face and block the excessive sounds. If you will feel like vomiting, you don’t have to leave the room, you will have a small bucket for it, same like everybody else. You may also want to get up and stretch or dance – feel free – it’s a great way to move the energy; but again, be careful not to step on anyone.
Please understand as well, that these cleansing reactions may happen, but don’t have to! There will be ceremonies, when you will seat quietly in total silence and at peace, journeying deeply within yourself, swimming in love and light of the Universe. Either way, every ceremony ends well! However difficult it may seem at some moments, it always ends eventually and by the end of the ceremony you will be showered with blissful love. Ayahuasca never give you more, than you can handle! – this is a golden rule, which you need to remember and you can repeat to yourself if you’re going to feel overwhelmed. If She will show you something, which will be difficult for you to deal with, understand, that on some level you must be ready to face it, otherwise it would never come up in the first place. The truth is, that the deeper you go, the better you feel the next day, and the more healing you receive. Don’t be afraid to vomit either, it’s not the same as when you have food poisoning (first of all, your stomach will be empty, so you will only vomit liquid – much easier), it feels more like a relief, you finally let go of something that no longer serves you and perhaps was ruining your life…
If your experience becomes very intensive and you find yourself struggling, or seemingly getting lost between realities, first of all – please seat up, with your back straight (we advice to remain in that position throughout the ceremony) and breath deeply. Concentrate on your breath, as you do in meditation – this should help you find balance and go back to your centre; be the “eye of the storm”. Always remember that the Medicine is trying to help you, let her work with you, do not resist, just let go and breath. On some rare occasions a person may feel like they can’t cope with their visions or purging is too intensive – should this happen to you, please ask the facilitator for help, they will know what to do.
Remember that the ritual is a community circle, but of personal and individual work (!) therefore, it is not allowed to speak or whisper to others during the ceremony (sometimes the whispering can become very annoying for others…). If you come with a friend or partner, you may have a burning desire to share that big revelation you’ve just had, but no matter how important it is to you, it’s worth waiting till the end of the ceremony. All participants will be very open and sensitive to sounds and energies; bothering them or making excessive noise may have a negative influence on their experience. Talking to someone during the ceremony could disturb or completely stop their process, they will not appreciate it…
The ceremony takes about 6-8 hours, so make sure you get enough rest the day before and few days after, and hydrate your body well! Many cleansing processes involve taking a lot of water from the cells (it’s literally like flushing!), so it’s important to take a good care of yourself and not get dehydrated.
~ The preparation ~
(same diet applies before and after the ceremony)
It is important to follow a strict diet during at least 10 to 14 days prior to the ceremony. During this time you basically need to eliminate anything that’s not healthy and/or could cause a bad reaction when mixed with Ayahuasca. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and enjoy freshly prepared fruit juices, so that your body can start cleaning itself. We recommend you the following diet:
- DON’T eat red meat
- DON’T eat pork
- DON’T use hot spices
- DON’T eat fatty food
- DON’T eat sweets
- DON’T drink any coffee or Yerba Mate at least 3 days before ceremony (the only caffeinated plant which is allowed, is guayusa, because of it’s balancing and calming properties).
- DON’T take any recreational drugs at least 1 month, especially hard drugs
- DON’T drink any alcohol or liquor at least 10 days before.
- DON’T use your sexual energy (this means no sex, but also no masturbation) for at least few days. Most likely nobody will question you about that, but it is important. Sexual energy is very powerful and in a ceremony will be very useful for your process. Using it unconsciously is simply a waste. If you can, try to keep it.
- Try to avoid ingestion of processed food products, which contain chemicals and preservative agents; any pickles, soured, fermented foods etc. Do not use a microwave! It kills your food.
- Also, please abstain from pharmaceuticals, pills, or chemical drugs, even painkillers (except birth control pills). If you take any medications, it is vital that you inform your facilitator before the ceremony, as some substances in contact with MAO inhibitors can be very dangerous!
- 1 day prior to the ceremony don’t eat any citrus fruits, they react with Ayahuasca and can make you vomit excessively or block the medicine.
Ok, having read this, you might want to ask: “what am I supposed to eat then?!” Simple answer – all kinds of fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, seafood, diary, grains… Use your imagination.
It is NOT recommended to participate in a ceremony if:
- You are taking antidepressants or other medicines for psychiatric treatment
- You suffer from serious heart problems or high blood pressure
- You are diabetic and have to take medications on daily basis or/and insulin injections
- You are pregnant
- You are in the first 2 days of your monthly menstruation. (During this time your body is already in a strong process of purging, so please make sure you advice the shaman or facilitator prior to ceremony. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be allowed to participate, but you will be served a different portion of the medicine).
During this dietary time it is also extremely beneficial to spend some time in meditation and setting a clear intention on what you would like to gain, to let go of, or to heal during the ceremony.
~ The day of the ceremony ~
On the day of the ceremony it is best to fast completely. However, if you feel very hungry and feel like you won’t manage or the hunger will distract you too much from your process, you can have a very light breakfast in the morning, for example some salad without dressing, couple of fruits (just not citrus!) vegan soup or porridge cooked in water.
~ After the ceremony ~
Considering how Ayahuasca works, it is best to give yourself at least 2 days off to finish your process, make sure you complete your cleansing and integrate your experience as much as possible. Rest a lot after the ceremony and drink plenty of water! Aya will continue working with you, she will be adjusting your energy circuits, balancing your chakras, repairing meridians and broken DNA. For the maximum effect I advise to keep a light diet for at least 7 days after the ceremony. It is also good not to mix your energy with other people; try to stay away from crowded places, chaos and stressful situations. It is also very important to do some grounding practices on daily basis.
This medicine works in many wonderful and mysterious ways. The spirit of Aya may be giving you teachings for a long time after the ceremony; watch out for any “signs”, synchronicities and messages, sometimes they may come from most unexpected places or people. Tune in and listen carefully. If you receive a message at the ceremony about something you have to change in your life, make sure you implement it, everything around you will try to line up to make it possible; if you resist, you will struggle…
Pay attention to your dreams, many messages may come in your sleep, when your busy filtering mind is resting. Just be careful how you interpret what you see, sometimes your visions may be very metaphoric, but sometimes literal, use your intuition and if necessary, consult with someone, who can help you understand them.
~ Recommending ayahuasca to others ~
I feel that this is very important thing to mention, because this medicine is really not for everyone! I came across people, who are so excited after they try ayahuasca, they want to share it with the whole world (understandably in a way, but…). This is such a deep experience, that it is crucial, that the desire to meet with it comes from within, the person has to want it for themselves and seek it, otherwise there’s no point! If someone goes for a ceremony, because they were talked into it, not only they may not benefit at all, but it may even be dangerous for them. They will have to be able to process it, understand the experience, and handle what comes after (I don’t recommend it for people younger than about 25 for that reason, unless they are very conscious and did a lot of inner work already).
If it is not the right time for them, they may really struggle, as all of their shadows and deeply buried traumas will get stirred up. There have been cases of people “losing it” after a ceremony or even going into depression or other psychological disorders. Please do not talk people into it. You can share your experience and what it meant for you, but if someone will feel the calling, let them ask for it, let them sit with it for a while and understand what it truly means. Allow them the time to do some research and feel what kind of shaman or facilitator they are drawn to, it may not be the same person that you went to…
~ Facilitators ~
There are many different shamans, facilitators, curanderos or ayahuasqueros, every one has their own approach and follows different traditions. Peruvian shaman is going to be very different from Brazilian or Columbian. There are also very good facilitators, who do not come from shamanic lineage, but none the less, they do excellent work. How to find a good one? You have to use your intuition, but also do some good research before you seat with someone in a ceremony.
As ayahuasca became more popular around the world, many people spotted an opportunity of making money on it and started serving this medicine without training… My teacher once said that there’s a big difference between serving ayahuasca and making a Ceremony – I experienced it myself and it’s very true.
There are also shamans, who were very well trained and had excellent preparation, but became greedy and in time, their intentions have changed – this will undoubtedly affect your experience. If you are going to have ayahuasca with someone, make sure that they know what they’re doing, ask them about their training, their approach and most of all – question their integrity! Any shaman or facilitator (same as any other therapist for that matter), can only take you as far as they have gone themselves; this means that if they don’t work on themselves, and their private life is not a statement of what they preach, you should probably avoid them.
Don’t be afraid to ask where their ayahuasca comes from, what’s in it, who cooked it and with what intentions. This drink is a Sacred Alchemy, every bit of energy that goes into it will affect your ceremony. I don’t recommend ayahuasca that contains anything other than the ayahuasca vine and chacruna leaves; I’d for sure avoid anything containing toe, also known as datura (a plant with big, bell-shaped white flowers), it’s extremely strong and can be dangerous. Unfortunately some fake shamans add it to their brew to give “a strong kick” to the silly unexperienced gringo tourists… It is probably safest to go with someone recommended by a trusted person.
Here are the shamans I have worked with personally and I would highly recommend:
- Diego Palma, Pisaq, Peru
- Miguel Tapullima, Tarapoto, Peru
- Herbert Quinteros, Tarapoto, Peru
- Jose Campos, Pucalpa, Peru
- Kush, Cusco, Peru
- Mao Tanka, Columbia
- Carioca Freitas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Sergio Leds, Sao Paulo, Brazil
There are also several centres, which I would recommend for deeper work, like long-term Ayahuasca Retreat or Master Plant Dieta. From those where I have been personally – Katari Centre, Takiwasi, Juliampampa, Melisa Wasi, Ciranda, Temple of Sacred Fire (Templo do Fogo Sagrado); and also places where my trusted friends went and were very happy – for example The Temple of The Way of Light.
My husband and I have been trained in the Amazon jungle by Master Shamans and we have been working with plant medicines for nearly 9 years. In countries where it is legally allowed, we offer private sessions for individuals, couples and small groups. These ceremonies are inclined towards therapeutic purpose and include integration sessions afterwards. If you are interested, please get in touch.
For private consultations about Ayahuasca or other sacred plants, please contact me.