Updated: Nov 7
Disclaimer: Psychedelics are largely illegal substances across the world, and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illicit drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this article is designed to enhance the safety of those who decide to use these substances. Psychedelics at the very least should be respected. For the best guidance, consider seeking out legal psychedelic therapy centres. Author: Resident Writer, Freya Astrella. Ayahuasca is not a magic potion that will fix all your problems in one gulp. It may take several doses to uproot your deepest troubles, and only if you are prepared to fully surrender to ‘Mother Ayahuasca’.
Perhaps we’re all a little guilty of relying on Mother Ayahuasca to do all the work herself. But it’s imperative that you work alongside the medicine during the ceremony, the day after, and long after it has cleared your system.
Simply put, ayahuasca is the teacher, but it’s up to you to do the homework.
The great bard, Terence McKenna said it best when he recalled what the Amazon shamans said to him: “You went to Harvard, we went to ayahuasca”.
Although I’m nowhere near as experienced as our beloved Terence, but I’ve been drinking shots of jungle juice for nearly a decade, and I’m pleased to share four hard-won insights to help you make the most of your work with ayahuasca:
1. Forget your expectations
The first step to working with the medicine is to let go of any expectations and become the observer – easier said than done, I know! But it really will serve you to forget everything you have read or heard and accept the lessons and visions as they happen. Surrender to the fact that every trip is different – the good, the meh, and the downright terrifying. 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. Sometimes you’ll puke your brains out, and sometimes you won’t.
Moreover, some of us foolishly think we’re wise to how the medicine maneuvers after a few ceremonies, only to be annihilated the next time we drink (guilty as charged!). There is simply no telling what sort of magic you’ll be served up. And remember, just because your experience isn’t a psychedelic eye-fest doesn’t mean it isn’t teaching you something on a deeper level. It’s easy to feel left out in the cold, but it could be argued that your lack of visuals – and your resulting frustration – is all part of the beautifully perfect process.
2. Surrender to the purge
“Drinking Ayahuasca is an ordeal. It is, for a start, amongst the most horrible tastes and smells on the planet...Within about 45 minutes of drinking it you frequently begin to suffer bouts of severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It is not for nothing that it is also known as “the purge” in the Amazon!” – Graham Hancock
My second tip for you is to not resist the purge and furthermore, to be grateful for it. It’s an understandable concern to find yourself puking in a room of strangers. But trust me – when you are settled in with your fellow psychonauts, it will be the least of your concerns. In fact, it can be downright hilarious.
The real problem is not being a chunder-dragon in front of other people, but what the vom’ itself represents – which is all the bullshit and baggage that you carry. Many people don’t want this go, 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. But please surrender!
The medicine is cleaning you out, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I promise you will feel SO much better for it. You may even find yourself giving thanks to the brown slop in your bucket.
3. Accept the invitation to share
At ayahuasca retreats, you often get the chance to unpack your nightly experiences in group-sharing circles. These are great opportunities for you to flesh out your process, unravel your thoughts, and set the wheels of integration into motion. Furthermore, it’s also extremely valuable to listen to others’ trip reports. Not only may you resonate, but their emotional outbursts may crack open your heart, just that little bit more. So, even if you don’t want to share, it’s still worth sitting in to listen to the rest of the group. Getting stuck in solitude in your own head will likely hinder the integration process. So, be candid and wear your heart on your sleeve. Take advantage of the loving and supportive retreat environment as much as you can before stepping back out into the big scary world. On that note – do your best to not leave the retreat early. Stay right to the end and relish in the long goodbyes.
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
Once you’re back in the swing of your routines and obligations, it’s imperative that you practice what you learned back at the retreat.
Those precious epiphanies can slip through your fingers shockingly fast. And it may only take a sarcastic comment from a loved one or a rude exchange with a shop cashier to catapult you back into your old behaviours.
Your new mission – if you choose to accept it – is to walk mindfully through life. Rather than getting sucked back into the banality of life, you can choose to 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 what hidden agendas are at play?
Small daily actions will soon mount up, helping to keep your conscience clear and your heart open.
And if you do find yourself getting hot-headed, stressed, or anxious, become the observer once again, reflect on what triggered you, and delve deep into your own psyche.
The bottom line:
Ayahuasca is not a one-night stand. It’s a life-long relationship – regardless of whether you drink once or a hundred times. If you are serious about doing ‘the work’ on yourself, the work continues long after the trip has ended. I wish you all the very best on your ayahuasca adventures...