Ayahuasca is not a magic potion in the sense that it will fix all your problems in one gulp. Many who imbibe the sacred tea report feeling disappointed after their first ceremony or feel that the ‘glow’ has waned after a month back in the real world. It may take several doses to uproot your deepest troubles, but only if you are fully working in conjunction with ayahuasca.
Perhaps we are all a little guilty of relying on Mother Ayahuasca to do all the work herself. There is a phrase that gets bandied about throughout aya culture that needs to be listened to, which is: Ayahuasca is the teacher, but it’s up to you to do the homework.
It’s imperative that you work alongside the medicine during the ceremony, the morning after during integration, and long after it has cleared your system. This is reflected in a talk by Terence McKenna when he recalled what the Amazon shamans said to him: “You went to Harvard, we went to ayahuasca.”
Here are 4 ways to make the most of your ayahuasca experience
1) Forget your expectations
The first step to working with the medicine is to let go of any expectations and simply become the observer. Forget everything you have read or heard and accept the lessons you are being taught as they happen. Surrender to the fact that every ‘trip’ is different. Sometimes you’ll get visuals, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you’ll cry, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you’ll get a ‘body-load’, sometimes you won’t.
You may think you’re wise to how the medicine manoeuvres after a few ceremonies, only to be annihilated next time you drink. There is no telling what you’ll be served up. And remember, just because it isn’t a psychedelic eye-fest doesn’t mean it isn’t teaching you something on a deeper level. It could even be suggested that your frustration at not getting the experience you wanted is actually part of the process.
2) Give thanks to the purge
“Drinking Ayahuasca is an ordeal. It is, for a start, amongst the most horrible tastes and smells on the planet – a mixture of foot-rot, raw sewage, battery acid, sulfur and just a hint of chocolate. Within about 45 minutes of drinking it you frequently begin to suffer bouts of severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is not for nothing that it is also known as “the purge” in the Amazon!” ~ Graham Hancock
The second step is to not resist the purge, and furthermore, be grateful for it. It is an understandable concern to find yourself puking in a room of strangers, but trust that when you are there and settled in, it will be the least of your concerns. The actual problem at play here is that people don’t want to let go of their trauma, because they believe it still serves them.
You may find yourself squirming and writhing around all night long trying to escape the hollow pit of nausea in your stomach or your almost-bursting bowel movements. You have to let it go. The medicine is cleaning you out, so let it do its job. You will feel SO much better for it! And make sure you always give thanks to the purge for finally leaving you in peace.
3) Accept the invitation to share
Normally, at ayahuasca retreats, you get the chance to talk about your experiences with the group and the shaman/facilitator. It’s a great opportunity for you to flesh out your process, unravel your thoughts and begin to set the wheels into motion.
However, it is also extremely valuable to listen to others as you may feel you resonate with their journeys. So, even if you don’t want to share, it is still worth sitting in to listen to the rest of the group.
Getting stuck in solitude in your own head will only hinder your process. Be candid, honest and wear your heart on your sleeve. Take advantage of the loving and supportive environment as much as you can before stepping back out into the big scary world.
4) Integrate every day
“If you have a direct experience with spirit, it does change you—it becomes part of your psyche, your nervous system. You recognize the unity of all things, you act directed by that, and it modifies how you live.” ~ Chris Kilham
When you are back in the swing of your routines and obligations it is imperative that you practice what you learned back at the retreat. It is amazing how quickly those precious epiphanies can slip through your fingers. It may only take a sarcastic comment from a loved one or a rude exchange with a stranger to catapult you back into your old behaviors.
It is your new mission to walk mindfully through life. Rather than getting sucked back into the banality of life, use every moment to practice being a better version of yourself.
Would you normally scowl at the bus driver? How about smiling and giving thanks? If you become defensive at your lover’s remarks, how about pausing to see the hidden motives at work?
Little things each day will soon mount up and will keep your conscience clear. And if you do find yourself getting hot-headed, become the observer once again, reflect on what triggered you and delve deep.
Ayahuasca is not a one-night stand. If you feel the call and begin your journey with ‘aya’ you are signing up for a long-term relationship, regardless of how often you attend ceremonies. If you wish to get the most out of your experiences you must be willing to make a commitment to the sacred lessons of the ultimate plant teacher.
Once you have left the womb-like safety of the retreat you may find yourself as naked and vulnerable as a newborn baby. It is up to you to find your feet and march onwards in the world.
Featured image – Myztico Campo