Ayahuasca is a psychedelic medicine brewed by the traditional shamans of the amazon. Before the first and only time I tried it, one of the other participants told me, “ayahuasca has done more for me than three hundred hits of acid, and it’s a thousand times more powerful.” Two hours later when I was vomitting onto the ground as the Holy Spirit called my name from a wall of vibrating eyes straight out of an Alex Grey painting, I knew she was right.
Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug. Brewing the plants requires days of preparation. Drinking it can cause intense vomiting – known as purging. Shamans will tell you this vomiting serves a spiritual purpose as negative energy and old patterns are expelled from the body. In my case, I saw the vomit as black snakes pouring out of my throat, as they became unlodged from the seat of the ego.
I wouldn’t call it “fun.” Then again, I wasn’t taking ayahuasca for fun. I had a spiritual purpose.
Ayahuasca In Addiction Treatment
I first heard about the Amazonian shamanic drug ayahuasca through the work of Gabor Mate, a Vancouver based addiction researcher. Gabor Mate has found virtually all the addicts he works with experienced childhood sexual abuse. Because they did not receive enough love as children their bodies do not naturally produce enough of the “love chemicals” associated with happiness.
External stimulation, like drugs, fill the body with dopamine and other love chemicals. As Mate puts it, “for the first time in his life the addict feels normal.” An addict in the video below describes heroin as feeling like when your mother brings you “a nice warm bowel of chicken soup,” and Mate responds, “do you know how close you are to the scientific truth there?” (2 minutes in)
Since the underlying roots of addiction often involve a chemical imbalance created in early childhood, it’s very difficult to treat—unless of course, you had a drug that could completely reset the bodies neuro-chemistry.
Enter ayahuasca. After one or two sessions with ayahuasca, Mate’s patients began naturally producing the love chemicals they used to seek through drugs. Major addictions, ongoing issues, and lifelong baggage were wiped out using deep shamanic work.
The Shamanic Perspective
“What if,” Mate asks, “we understood something in the West which has been the underlying core insight of Eastern spiritual pathways and aboriginal shamanic pathways around the world, which is that human beings are not their personalities, we’re not our thoughts, we’re not our emotions, we are not our dysfunctional or functional dynamics, but that at the core there is a true self that is somehow connected to—in fact not connected to but part of—nature and creation?”
While Western science understands ayahuasca from a drug perspective, the tradtional shamans call it a medicine. We don’t “trip,” we journey. Unlike a pill you’d pick up at the pharmacy, ayahuasca engages your entire being. The intention and consciousness you enter the process with changes the experience. Ayahuasca requires letting go and surrendering fully – or in my case not surrendering and being taught a lesson in humility.
Preparing For Ceremony
Because it’s a part of traditional religious ceremonies, courts have upheld the right to brew and use ayahuasca in certain spiritual settings. While many shamans attempting to heal the west sometimes hold ceremonies in America, international travelers may want to look into participating in traditional South American ceremonies in Brazil or Peru.
Ayahuasca works like poison control, soaking up toxins in the body, and pouring them out through your throat, to cleanse the body both spiritually and physically. For this reason, it’s important to eat healthy beforehand, and follow whatever dietary guidelines your spiritual group recommends. Usually this means a cleanse of only fresh organic fruits and vegetables for a couple days beforehand, and avoiding eating any processed food, heavy meats, or overripe bananas and avocados (those two are specifically singled out).
A friend of mine made the mistake of eating fast food before his first ceremony. During his journey he saw visions of tortured animals, and spent three hours being chased around by an evil Ronald McDonald. If you introduce new toxins, you might have to clear them during ceremony.
Creating the Space
Only take ayahuasca in the company of a trusted spiritual healer. You will need someone who can hold space, lead you through the journey, and help you integrate afterward. Not all spiritual groups are equal. Check in with your higher self before participating in ceremonies and trust your instincts.
Ayahuasca is powerful magic. If you don’t heed the spiritual warnings, look at it this way—you’re ingesting a compound that can completely reset your entire neuro-chemisty. There were points during my journey where I forgot my name, and feared I might not come back. The shaman and your intention will ensure your return.
The medicine works it’s magic regardless of circumstances. If ayahuasca is meant to be a part of your path, it will find you. More important than anything else I have or could write is that you remember your intention. Enter the ceremony knowing clearly what you are wanting vibrationally. Then let go and surrender to whatever comes up during the journey.
I’ve said very little about the actual experience because I don’t want to color anyone’s intention. Plus, it’s very different for each person. Ayahuasca contains DMT, the chemical released in the brain during dreaming. Trying to describe my experience would be like trying to share a very profound dream.
Some people report feelings of deep love and euphoria. I had what could be called a “bad trip” but it was exactly what I needed in my spiritual path. I was put on a journey over which I had no control and had completely surrender to the divine or burn at the hands of my ego. For a time, there was no ‘me,’ just ego and awareness fighting over dominion of my soul. Ego held me hostage with white knuckled fists, and awareness surrounded it, laughing because it didn’t stand a chance. I finally understood the meaning of the phrase “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Part of my journey involved being told that I didn’t have to seek ayahuasca out again. I’d taken it for my own spiritual pride. The same pride that brought me to the medicine was the pride the medicine needed to cure. If I am to take ayahuasca again, it will be because it finds me. I’m open to it, but neither seeking it nor resisting it. Whatever spirit wants, thy will be done.
More important that the experience itself is integrating well. Unless the journey impacts your life it’s just spiritual tourism. There is a saying—after the ecstascy, the laundry—meaning after peak experiences, ground yourself in the mundane. The daily world is just as important as any spiritual realm you could travel to.
Plan on giving yourself several days afterward to integrate. Don’t schedule any major work or engagements for close to a week afterward. Remember, you may have reset your entire neuro-chemistry. Your body will need to rest. Journal, reflect, and take time to integrate your experience so you can use the lessons gained moving forward.
After ceremony, my friends said I was more myself after than they’d ever seen me before. I’ve never laughed and smiled as much as I did the day after ceremony. I felt grateful for every moment of my experience no matter how painful, because I knew just being incarnated in this world is a gift. There was nothing left to control. I was just along for the ride.
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