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What to do if you are having a bad Ayahuasca trip

what to do if you're having ayahuasca trip

Ayahuasca experiences are not all love and light. Like all things, there is a balance of light and darkness. Without this duality in life, we would not be able to appreciate the light where it exists nor would we ever learn how to navigate challenges or pain without the darkness.  Please remember that this medicine does not give us what we WANT, she gives us what we NEED. Pain is the catalyst for change, it is how we learn, and it's something we must be prepared to face during an ayahuasca ceremony. Still, if you find yourself in a moment of darkness that you can't seem to escape, there are tools you can use to help shift into the light.

  • Acceptance - Release any resistance to darkness, it is part of existence. Don't fight the medicine, it's a battle you will not win. What you resist, persists. Instead of focusing on wanting the experience to change, look for the lesson in what you are experiencing. Even if you can't find a lesson, try to accept what is and ask ayahuasca to help you. Show her that you are willing to do what is hard to heal. Do not try to run away or try to stop the experience, it will only make things worse. Showing up for yourself often changes the experience.

  • Gratitude -  Expressing gratitude can shift an experience from a moment of darkness to a moment of light. Oftentimes, just the simple act of saying 'thank you' to ayahuasca can drastically change the direction of the experience. Perspective is powerful so if all of our energy is focused on being unhappy or uncomfortable, we will likely stay unhappy and uncomfortable. If we shift our awareness to gratitude, we invite a new perspective rooted in love and humility.

  • Remember your intention - What is your purpose for being in the ceremony? What did you come to ayahuasca hoping to gain or let go of? Ultimately, ayahuasca takes control and gives you what you need, not what you want, but focusing on your intention for the experience can help you shift back to a place of purpose and gratitude.

  • Take a deep breath -  Breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to re-center and ground yourself when an ayahuasca experience becomes challenging. Breathing is the body’s natural way of responding to pain and emotion. When we experience fear and our fight/flight response is activated we become tense and our breath becomes shallow, rapid, erratic or we forget to breathe altogether. If we bring our awareness to our breath and practice conscious breathing, we can induce a sense of calm and control. By taking slow, steady breaths we activate our parasympathetic nervous system which eases feelings of fear and anxiety that can surface during a heavy ayahuasca experience.

  • Open your eyes - Most of the visions from ayahuasca come when the eyes are closed. When you open your eyes, you bring back the awareness of this world and reorient yourself with your outward reality. This respite can allow you to practice any of the above-mentioned tools in a more controlled setting. Once you have realigned with your purpose, close your eyes and release into the experience again.  

  • Change your position- Like opening your eyes, moving your physical body from lying down to a seated position can shift the experience. In our lineage, we were taught that the proper way to sit with ayahuasca is exactly that - seated. When you lie down, you allow the experience to take over and you are not contributing equally to the relationship with ayahuasca. Sitting up also allows the energy to flow freely from the crown of the head down through all the chakras and can help clear blockages that may be contributing to a difficult experience.

  • Focus on the Icaros and music -  The Icaros and music of the ceremony are specifically designed to help guide the experience and reflect the energy of the ceremony space. Sometimes when the medicine gets intense, the experience we are having in our heads drowns out the music and our own internal voice takes over. If you begin to feel lost or consumed in the visions or emotions of the experience, try paying attention to every sound. At the same time, sometimes the Icaros or sounds of certain musical instruments can trigger emotions or memories that may be painful. If the music is contributing to your discomfort, try the other tools and look for the underlying meaning and how to grow from it.

Ultimately, ayahuasca is unpredictable and we never truly know what things from the deepest recesses of our soul may surface. Part of 'doing the work' of healing is confronting that pain, accepting it, and moving through it, even if you don't understand its source. There are no 'bad ayahuasca trips', just difficult ones. Sometimes the ayahuasca experience is bliss, sometimes it feels like hell but it's always in service of our greatest good and to help us align with the highest version of ourselves.  

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