How to Prepare for a Retreat
Updated: Jan 2
6 Ways to Prepare for an Ayahuasca Retreat
So you’ve booked a retreat and now you’re wondering how to prepare. It’s normal to feel nervous and apprehensive about the whole process. Ayahuasca is a powerful medicine and should be taken seriously and approached with great reverence. The first thing you can do is get to know your providers and the center you will be attending to be sure you feel safe and comfortable in their hands. From there, you can start to look at yourself and start to prepare the mind and body with a few simple steps.
1. Set an Intention
Having a clear and defined intention is paramount to the experience. Your intention should answer the questions ‘What do I want to take away from this experience?’ Maybe it is a way that you want to grow – something to move toward or maybe it is something that you are ready to leave behind - a burden to be released. Having an intention helps keep the focus on what you want to get out of the ceremony and guide the experience in that direction. Your intention can be something specific or it can be something in general like ‘I want to be a better version of myself’. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to focus your intentions. While it is important to have an intention, it is also important to keep an open mind and an open heart. This brings us to our next step…
2. Let go of expectations
If you have never done plant medicines before (and even if you have), it is impossible to really know what to expect. It is great to be well informed and read articles about other people's experiences but it is unlikely that your experience will be the same. The experience is different in every ceremony, no matter how many times you drink. Try not to expect anything from the medicine. Let go of what you think the experience should be and open your heart to allow the experience to be what it is and take you where you need to go. Trust the intelligence of the plants, they will give you the experience you are meant to have. Sometimes the things we want and the things we need are not always the same. These plants will reveal the truth.
2. Take Care of your Body
Psychedelics can be difficult physically, so it is important to respect our bodies and prepare them for ceremonies.
Eat well – The ayahuasca diet - what can I eat? The diet is mostly for spiritual discipline, there are very few food interactions that will affect your experience. Red mean, dairy and spicy food should always be removed from your diet for one week before the experience. The idea is to be aware of what you are fueling your body with. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid fried and processed foods. Just be smart and healthy and you'll be fine.
Exercise – There is a huge connection between mental health and physical health. When you treat your body well and it feels good, the mind usually follows. If you aren’t used to excising you can start small with something like yin yoga or walks. If you exercise fairly regularly just keep up with your routine and try to bring mindfulness to your action.
Hydrate – Being well hydrated is important for the body to function properly so it's always a good idea to stay well hydrated.
Rest – Give yourself and your body a break. Avoid stress triggers. Make sure you are well-rested and getting a good night's sleep (7-8 hours). Avoid sleeping with the TV on and try to get into a regular sleep schedule.
3. Be present / Remove Distractions
Start giving yourself more time to be alone, time for reflection, and focusing on your intention. Try to start distancing yourself from things that are distracting like TV and the internet. Take walks, read books (The Power of Now – Eckhart Tole is a great one), and spend time in nature. Try to bring awareness into your daily life in each moment. Stop and look at the movement of the clouds, or the way the trees move in the wind. The things your focus on and put in your brain prior to the ceremony are the things that are most likely to come up again during the experience.
5. Integration/ Aftercare
Have a plan and be patient. Don’t expect everything to change right away – processing the experience takes time and work. Set up some kind of integration or aftercare to help with the transition. Setting up with a therapist, like Brian Murphy, or someone that works specifically psychedelic integration support can be a valuable tool for adjusting to life back home. Find an aftercare facility – if you are in need of deep healing, it is probably best to find a new environment for a month or so after the experience so you can process without distraction from work or family. Keep up the healthy routines that you started in preparation for the experience. No matter which option you choose, have some kind of plan. The facility or center you choose can help you come up with options based on your individual situation.