9 Guidelines For Beginning Ayahuasca Travelers
The following first appeared on Reset.me:
Ayahuasca is a powerful brew that the indigenous of South America have been using for thousands of years, in order to connect them to Mother Nature and the cosmos. The medicine is made from from a mixture of the DMT containing chacruna leaves and the Ayahuasca vine native to South America’s rainforests and is ingested in the form of a tea. It has recently made its way into modern focus, causing Ayahuasca tourism to surge with newly-opened healing centers appearing left and right. While many of us choose not to question our mundane, routine existences and perpetual lack of direction, some go in search for answers. Its appeal to tourists and foreigners is primarily due to its psychedelic effects, famous for instilling in its consumers a sense of enlightenment and internal cleansing. Ayahuasca is used by native South American tribes and people as a healing medicine, believed to cleanse them of negative energy and connect them more intimately to their concept of universal divinity. Although Ayahuasca is an amazing avenue to find answers to some of life’s most burning and integral questions, there are some precautions that one should keep in mind before beginning their search for enlightenment, especially when traveling to the Ayahuasca mecca: Iquitos, Peru.
That’s where I come in. My name is Daniel Miceli, and I’ve been working extensively with Ayahuasca over the past year. I have been acting as a translator for two different centers in Ecuador and Peru and have experienced and observed the profound, life-altering experiences that Ayahuasca has hosted for so many beautiful individuals. I have seen people grow, heal and transform in ways that I never knew were possible. Unfortunately, Ayahuasca tourism’s rapid growth has had certain negative repercussions. Knowing this and the power that Ayahuasca has to improve our human potential, I believe it is important to be educated before stepping into this sacred culture of traditional medicine. Here are some basic guidelines that could help and guide you, based on my own experiences and observations from the world of Ayahuasca.
Do proper research before choosing a center.
Just because a healing center comes up on the top of your google search and has a pretty website does not necessarily mean that it will suit you. In fact, these centers tend to be the priciest and least authentic, and more often than you would believe, people leave early and unsatisfied with the very occasional goodwill gesture of a monetary refund. Some of these centers will have retreats and hold ceremonies with over twenty people in a group, trying to cash out as much as they can thus diminishing the intimacy of the experience. The smaller the retreat, the more intimate the attention will be and the more chances you will have of forming deep bonds with the other participants. We as westerners tend to think that if something costs more, it must be better. Right? Wrong. Remember that the dollar goes a long way in South America, so be sure that wherever you are going your money is justly spent. Try using websites such as ayaadvisor.org or reddit.com where you can find many reviews for various recommended centers. Try to keep in mind that just because one center did or didn’t work for one person does not necessarily mean that the same will be true for you. Although some people have had negative experiences with these larger centers, some have also had incredible experiences. It all depends on the experience you hope to have, and what you are hoping to get out of it. Some people would prefer to have an authentic experience, while some people would prefer to have available to them the comforts and amenities they’re used to from home.
Ayahuasca is known for its intense abortive effects which often cause drinkers to vomit. Shamans call this ‘getting well’ because the body is begin purged of negative energy and traumas.
Always trust your intuition.
Chances are, if someone is yelling “Ayahuasca!” to you and trying to sell it like a used car then it’s probably no good. Many of these Ayahuasca salesmen will take you to people who aren’t even real shamans in an attempt to cash in on the gringos (a word locals in South America use to describe foreigners), which can be dangerous and leave people scarred from their experience and weary of ever trying the medicine again. If you ever get the feeling that “something isn’t right” don’t second guess and let your mind get in your way. This can be a very cruel world in which humans take something as sacred as Ayahuasca and use it for their own personal gain. The darker aspects of Ayahuasca have everything to do with the people administering and nothing to do with the medicine itself. There have been negative accounts from people who have taken Ayahuasca such as people getting robbed of their belongings. Because Ayahuasca tourism has become so vast, people will take this as an opportunity to take advantage of tourists who do not know any better. Although this isn’t the case with all of the locals, some simply are trying to improve tourism in the Amazon. It is important to know that there are brujos, or ‘bad shamans’ out there, people who are out to steal your energy and money – you’d be surprised at how many westerners fit the bill. Just because someone has worked with the medicine previously, does not mean that they are necessarily a good person.
Everyone heals at their own pace.
During the healing process, the patient may express certain changes manifested by the nature of their traumas, meaning internal struggles person may have gone through before taking Ayahuasca. Some of these include the abuse of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs, sexual abuse in the past, as well as uncontrolled sex drive or nymphomania, alcoholism, aggression, hatred, depression, and other negative tendencies and psychological disorders. The amount of time it takes to heal depends on the severity of the problem for each individual. There have also been cases of people not breaking through and embracing Ayahuasca at its fullest potential because of energetic blockages. Energy organically refers to everything that the body produces to create life force. An energetic block comes from all of the consequences that the human being can cause from any emotional, psychological, psychic, or physical trauma. This can be solved with different methods of energy healing, which in turn will be very beneficial to the Ayahuasca experience. For a smoother journey while under the medicine, it is best to go in as free of energetic blockages as possible.
The ayahuasca brew, which is a combination of the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi), chacruna leaves (Psychotria viridis), and water.
Take the necessary health precautions.
It is important to contact your chosen center and advise them of any medications you may be taking to be sure of the safety precautions. Ayahuasca generally should not be mixed with any kind of man-made drugs, especially anti-depressants. They do not mix well with Ayahuasca and can lead to serotonin syndrome, which causes mental and bodily effects that range from being barely perceptible to being fatal. There has been a lot of negative propaganda reporting those that have died while under the medicine, but many fail to mention that the victim was also taking anti-depressants. This only paints one side of the story. If one were to drink this brew with natives, how would said said natives be aware of the effects it has when combined with drugs that are non-existent in their culture? There have also been reports that some people taking certain vitamin supplements did not feel the effects of the medicine. This speaks for malaria pills as well which should not be mixed with Ayahuasca. For at least a month before using Ayahuasca, try to stay off all synthetic medications or drugs. Ayahuasca also does not react well with certain physical ailments, so if you have a particular condition, it is important to investigate how it will react with Ayahuasca and inform your chosen center. Remember that even if Ayahuasca may not be compatible with you, there are plenty of other medicinal plants used for healing.
Follow the Ayahuasca diet.
The Ayahuasca diet or dieta consists of no sugar, no salt, no oil, no processed foods, no spicy food, no pork or red meat, no alcohol and no sex! There is also a distinction between the Ayahuasca diet and the various plant diets that you can try in addition to drinking Ayahuasca, which are highly recommended as each have numerous health benefits. Some people will tell you that the dieta is of no importance, when in reality it makes a world of a difference. The dieta allows you to undergo your ceremonies without the Ayahuasca working too hard on cleansing you out first. It also gives you more discipline and preparation for your experience. If your body is cleaner you will have a greater sense of presence and there will be less room for your mind to wander while in ceremony. Some centers will go a little extreme with this and starve their clients, leaving some preoccupied with their hunger instead of enjoying their experience. The dieta is not so one can starve, but rather to cleanse, to be pure for the richest Ayahuasca experience.
Choose the shaman who best appeals to you.
This is a tricky one, because earlier on it was stressed to go somewhere that has been recommended. This is still true, but it’s also important to keep in mind that one person’s shaman may be right for them but they may not be right for you. It depends on what you are looking for. Some shamans specialize in certain illnesses while others may be better at providing love, support and guidance. Some shamans work with a specific plant such as tobacco while others do not use it in their practices. The one that works for you depends on the kind of healing needed and experience that you are looking for. Some of us tend to forget that shamans are people too. You aren’t going to get along with everyone; naturally we get along better with some people than we do with others and the same goes for your shaman. If you have the opportunity, try doing ceremonies with a few recommended shamans if you have the liberty and time to do so. You may be able to find the information needed regarding your shaman by looking at your chosen centers website. Also try to get to know your shaman by talking to them if permitted before your first ceremony.
Set an intention.
When you hold up your cup before you drink, it is advised to give it a few moments before ingesting the brew to focus your intention on what you want to get out of your ceremony. An intention is the motivation or question one has for the medicine. Whatever burning question that you have deep inside, do not be afraid to ask Ayahuasca. Do not give her a Christmas list either, as she will just give it back to you. On most occasions, she will give you an answer and you may not even realize it until reflecting back on your ceremony. Try searching deep within yourself and find out exactly what you need. For example, instead of asking the medicine to “help you quit smoking” find the root of your addiction, and then ask the medicine to help you confront this. It is okay if nothing specific comes to mind, but regardless try to put positive thought into your cup before drinking. I personally give thanks for everything Ayahuasca has taught me before each of my ceremonies.
Let yourself go, and let this powerful teacher guide you.
It can be frightening to let all of those inhibitions that you have nurtured your entire life go and many participants have a lot of trouble doing this. Never fight your visions. Resistance causes a more turbulent experience. Whatever Ayahuasca shows you is meant to teach and guide you. The moment you let all of the constructs of your ego melt away and let Ayahuasca’s vine caress you, she will take you to otherworldly realms and submerge you in her knowledge and wisdom. Don’t hold on to the river bank, go with the current and allow Ayahuasca to flow through you. It will be an experience that breaks away all of the restrictions and limitations that our human experience limits us to. She wants you to get to know yourself, and this can be a difficult process. Once you do this, you will find your internal God and feel a sense of wholeness, serenity and have a deeper understanding of some of your life’s most painful experiences.
Finally, take the plunge and listen to her call.
Chances are, if you are reading this you have already taken an interest in Ayahuasca. If you are hearing the whisper in your ear, a calling to this sacred vine, take the leap of faith and just go. If you simply cannot afford to come all the way to South America just keep your eyes open and you may just find the perfect opportunity right outside your front door! Just because the experience isn’t out in the Amazon doesn’t mean that her spirit will be absent. When the time comes, the time comes, so do not let that pass you by. Many of us are being called to her at a moment that is vital for the growth and evolution of the collective human consciousness. We are screaming to once again go back to nature, as our way of life is not serving us any longer. Ayahuasca is providing a bridge for humanity to have an understanding of what it really means to be human, how powerful we truly are, our connection to the Universe and that magic isn’t just something tucked away in fairy tales. Do not keep putting it off for another time in your life, when you are “ready.” There is no moment better than the present. Go with your instincts, listen to the signs and take the plunge because no one is brought to Ayahuasca by accident…
For a weekly roundup of drugs news, sign up for AlterNet's Drugs Newsletter here.