Ayahuasca awareness continues to grow and there are retreats popping up all over the world but there are a few things you should know before you dive into a ceremony. Here is a list of 10 things you should know before you drink ayahuasca.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Not everyone working with this medicine is good, not all centers are reputable, and there can be a lot of shady stuff associated with certain centers/facilitators. I am consistently shocked by the number of guests that ask us things like ‘who leads the ceremonies?’, ‘where does your medicine come from?’, ‘How long have you been doing this?’ AFTER they arrive! I would think those questions would be pretty high on the list of things you would want to know BEFORE you commit to a center. You are the only one responsible for finding a safe place that you feel comfortable with. Ayahuasca is an extremely intimate experience and it leaves you vulnerable. Unfortunately, there are some people that like to take advantage of that vulnerability and use it to make themselves seem more powerful. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Read more than just the center’s website. Google the facility and facilitators names, read reviews, see if there are any red flags or things you should be aware. There are also resources such as Retreat.Guru , Openmindtrips and Aya Advisors that can be useful tools in your search for the right center.
2. IT IS NOT A ‘ONE AND DONE’ KIND OF MEDICINE
Ayahuasca is not a cure for anything. You will not wake up the morning after ceremony and be fixed or healed. Ayahuasca can show you a direction, it can give you tools and it can help you see things from a different perspective; but change requires WORK. Unfortunately, a lot of online articles, retreat centers and ‘healers’ will boast wild claims about ayahuasca’s capabilities, offering lists of diseases and ailments that it can 'cure'. This makes it very difficult for reputable and honest centers to work with guests in regard to managing expectations and having realistic intentions. It’s best to go into the experience with an open mind, an open heart and accept where the medicine takes you but be prepared to take responsibility and put in work to making lasting changes. Many people continue to drink ayahuasca once a year or have ‘tune up’ sessions to keep everything fresh and to stay focused.
3. IT CAN BE BEAUTIFUL, BUT IT CAN BE DIFFICULT
We often read online about the beauty, warmth and love that ayahuasca can give, but we do not often hear of how difficult it can be as well. In almost every experience, there is some type of duality and balance between darkness and light; pain and bliss. Ayahuasca is a very powerful medicine and it demands respect. Sometimes it can confront us with the darkest aspects of ourselves, forcing us to come face to face with things we would rather hide from; but it seems more often than not, the most difficult experiences are the ones we can learn and grow the most from. If you have never drank ayahuasca before and are looking for a center for your first experience it is probably best to find a retreat with 2 or 3 ceremonies at the most. It is really hard to drink ayahuasca everyday or every other day, so unless you know what you are getting yourself into, you should ease into it and not waste your time or money on a long commitment you may not be able to keep.
4. IT WILL NOT BE WHAT YOU EXPECT
No amount of research can prepare you for the experience. The only guarantee is that your experience will not be what you expect it to be.
5. THE PURGE IS SO THERAPEUTIC
No one likes to vomit or have diarrhea, but on ayahuasca the purge is such a release. It might be difficult or unpleasant during the actual process but the moments following are typically the peak of the experience bringing lightness and feeling clean. The purge allows us to get rid of more than just physical impurities, we can also get rid of energetic and emotional blockages. Some people even have the experience of throwing up traumas or disease. The purge allows us to release the things that are no longer serving us, so we can move forward a better version of ourselves.
6. THE SET, CEREMONY AND FACILITATOR ARE VERY IMPORTANT
Who you drink with, where you drink and the ceremony are all very important and will hugely impact the type of experience you have on ayahuasca. When trying to choose a center it is important to read reviews, know who the owners are, know who the ceremonial facilitator will be and research them. Most reputable centers will have this information readily available on their website, and if they don’t, that may be a red flag to be aware of. It is normal for most people to feel nervous and a bit uneasy before going into an ayahuasca ceremony, so it is very important that there is a level of trust and comfort between participant and facilitator. The set, setting and facilitator are the 3 biggest things that will contribute to your overall experience so it is very important to consider them thoroughly.
7. BE HONEST AND SAFE
Ayahuasca can be dangerous!! Any reputable center or facilitator will run through a medical screening with you before ceremony. It is so important that you are honest when answering these questions! No experience is ever worth putting your life on the line, and all we (as facilitators) are trying to do is keep everyone safe. Ayahuasca is generally considered safe so long as you follow the advise and direction of the facilitators but if you try to take matters into your own hands and withhold information you are not only putting yourself in a very dangerous position, but you are also putting the facilitator/center in compromised position and being inconsiderate of everyone else you will be drinking with by potentially putting them in a situation of having to experience a medical emergency while under the influence of ayahuasca. One of the biggest dangers is mixing SSRI anti-depressant medications with ayahuasca which can lead to serotonin syndrome so please, take this seriously and be honest! If the center doesn’t ask you about your medical history, DO NOT GO THERE.
8. YOU WILL NOT NECESSARILY HAVE A VISIONARY EXPERIENCE
Not everyone has visions. That does not mean you will not get any benefit from the medicine. Everyone experiences ayahuasca differently. Some people do have the bright, vivid, dimensional visions and some people don’t and that’s okay! The medicine gives us what we need. At times, that can be just a physical cleans or an emotional release. So much of the ayahuasca experience is thoughts and feelings, and the value of those thoughts or feelings are not defined by if they are accompanied by visions or not. Just try to be aware in ceremony and see where those thoughts and feels take you. If you don’t have visions the first ceremony, maybe you will the next. Every experience is different. Visions do not equate value.
9. YOU CAN NOT HIDE FROM YOURSELF ON AYAHUASCA
Ayahuasca confronts us will all aspects of ourselves. Good and bad, dark and light. Be prepared to face the duality of being a human. Be prepared to see your flaws and be to be confronted with your shortcomings. It is from knowing ourselves completely, ALL aspects of ourselves, the positive and the negative that allows us to reflect and grow to become better.
10. DO YOUR RESEARCH (SERIOUSLY)!
So important it needs to be on this list twice and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is. Be thorough, don’t be afraid to ask questions! You should feel like you already know the center and it’s staff by the time you arrive. Research until you feel comfortable, safe, committed and fully satisfied you have made the right choice for you.