Taking a healing journey with ayahuasca is serious work that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. One’s stay at an ayahuasca center is certainly is not for recreation or amusement.
It’s important to understand upfront that ayahuasca healing isn’t a cure-all or magic bullet.
Have Realistic Expectations
While a wide range of issues may be addressed with ayahuasca and other medicine plants, some problems won’t be helped at all. As with all forms of treatment, there will be varying results among individuals on an ayahuasca retreat.
The most critical factor we’ve seen for getting positive results with this medicine is the individual's attitude and level of commitment to their own healing. People who show up willing to do whatever it takes to find healing get the best results.
Having the right attitude means a willingness to take an honest look at our beliefs and behaviors, our negative and unproductive thought patterns, and having a sincere desire to change. Once we accept responsibility for our own healing, we’ll be willing to listen to advice, learn and adapt to more productive life patterns.
Ayahuasca Heals in a Variety of Ways
Ayahuasca exposes what lies at the root of our problems. During an ayahuasca ceremony, whatever we’re carrying inside of us, whatever is at the heart of our problems, tends to be experienced in a magnified way. We usually experience what is being healed.
While this could by any form of experience, emotional troubles make good and easy examples:
- If we struggle with anxiety, we may experience near panic
- If we struggle with depression, we may experience despair
- If we struggle with anger, we may experience something close to rage
This magnification process with very intense emotion is all very normal with ayahuasca. It’s important to keep in mind during ceremony that our most unpleasant experiences are where the deepest healing is happening.
You need to become an Observer of the Process: Trust and Surrender
The key to getting the most from ayahuasca is to trust the medicine and surrender to what it brings. It’s vital when we’re feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable during ayahuasca ceremony that we trust the medicine and the process and allow the experience to unfold. We need to surrender to the experience and let it happen without resistance; we need only to observe.
We need to allow the medicine to do its work, trusting that what’s happening is a necessary part of the ayahuasca healing process. Simple in concept, not necessarily easy in practice.
Being an Observer doesn’t come Naturally
Our instinctive reaction to any kind of discomfort is to want to control it so that we can escape the feeling. But we can detach ourselves from our emotions so that we merely observe the discomfort without reacting to it.
Here’s an example to help illustrate this observer concept:
In an ayahuasca ceremony one of our guests, a woman, was clearly distressed and having a difficult time. In quiet conversation with her, she said bad spirits were bothering her. The shaman didn’t sense anything around her but did some energy clearing, and she felt much better.
But it wasn’t long before she was distressed again. We asked her to give us more details about what she was experiencing. She said there were many spirits around her wanting to have sex with her. We assured her that there was nothing there and that nothing external was affecting her.
Everything that she was experience was coming from inside her.
Although she calmed down a bit, she still didn’t really believe that no spirits were bothering her. In a flash of insight, I asked her if I could ask a very personal question and she agreed. I asked, "Are you promiscuous?" Very meekly, and with a bit of shame, she said yes, and that she had known for a while that needed to change.
I reminded her about how we experience our issues in magnified ways under ayahuasca. I wanted to know if her experience made more sense to her in light of her past behavior and knowledge that she needed to change it. She said it did, and she was able to calm down and face the experience directly.
Once she realized that the experience was 100% internal, she could work with it. Ultimately her experience in ayahuasca ceremony resulted in a deep conviction to change her unhealthy behavior.
This is one illustration of how the medicine on an ayahuasca retreat can work with us. When we’re challenged in ceremony, or having a particularly unpleasant experience with something, a good question to ask yourself is if this pattern shows up regularly in your daily life, but more mildly.
You must be willing to look at the challenges and experiences that confront you in ayahuasca ceremony so that you can identify the beliefs and thought patterns that allow these issues to be a part of your life.
You must have a Strong Desire to work with Ayahuasca
Working with the medicines on an ayahuasca retreat may be of the most challenging and difficult experiences of your life, and it definitely should be chosen from the heart. Willingness is important. If it gets gets challenging, reminding yourself "I am willing" can make it much easier to drop into the state of surrender.
It might also be one of the most beautiful and life-changing experiences. However, most people will go through a bit of unpleasantness before they find their freedom. The process requires courage, commitment, trust and surrender to receive the most profound healings.
Trusting the medicine and surrendering to whatever it brings during ayahuasca ceremony, is how we get the most benefit from ayahuasca. Allow the medicine to do whatever it wants during ceremony, regardless of how unpleasant the experience may be.
Healing With Ayahuasca is Safe
For the most part healing with ayahuasca is a very safe process. But as with any healing practice, there are risks, and there are some people that shouldn’t be working with ayahuasca or any kind of consciousness-altering substances.
These risks are described on our Medical Safety web page, and we strongly suggest you read it thoroughly before deciding to visit an ayahuasca center.
If you’re drinking ayahuasca with a skilled ayahuasquero and healer, then anything you experience on an ayahuasca retreat will be for your good. Although it might be difficult to understand the confusion while you’re going through the journey, know that whatever you’re experiencing is only temporary and you’ll emerge as a whole person on the other side.
Because this is powerful medicine, it can bring about tremendous change in a very short period of time, if we allow it to. You just need to believe that you’ll be okay, regardless of the content of your experiences. And although you may not feel okay, know that you are.
Even if it might feel that you’re not be having a very good time during on an ayahuasca retreat, it’s important to know that you’re actually fine. It’s not that you’re going to be okay; you actually are okay! You’re just going through a difficult period that’s temporary and will pass.
To allow the medicine to do its work, you have to trust the process and surrender to the experience, believing that it’s healing you. Resisting the experience will only make it worse. Though we naturally resist and try to escape unpleasant experiences, surrender IS the easy path with ayahuasca healing.
Prepare The Mind And Body
Before arriving for your ayahuasca retreat it is important to do some preparation of both the mind and body in order to get the most from your time with the medicine. Meditation, diet and exercise are all important parts of this preparation.
Meditation helps reduce stress, control anxiety, enhances self-awareness and lengthens our attention span. There are many forms of meditation, the simplest being simply putting your attention on the feeling of your breath moving in and out of your nostrils. If your attention wanders, simply bring it gently back to air moving on your nostrils. There are many guided meditations available on the internet. Try a few and pick one to listen to daily. Even just 5 minutes a day of meditation can make a noticeable difference in your life.
Diet is very important for both our physical and mental well being. If we are not getting the nutrition the body needs, our brains will not function optimally. Just changing our eating habits can have a dramatic effect on our mood, peace of mind and sense of well being. We recommend you eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruit every day, and minimize meats and sugars.
If you are interested in learning more about healthy eating and the new understanding of nutrition, we high recommend you read Harvard Health's Special Report on Healthy Eating. This report is based on over 30 years of research by the Harvard School of Medicine, and is a fantastic reference about nutrition.
Exercise is also important to a healthy body and mind. Make sure you are getting regular exercise, even if in small amounts. This is an area where something, even a minor amount, is much better than nothing.
The general guideline here is the healthier and cleaner the body and mind are before you come, the more pleasant and productive your time with ayahuasca will be. The medicine will simply have less work to do before it can start showing you the beautiful things it has to offer. We have clearly seen that those who have taken good care of their bodies avoid much of the unpleasant side of the ayahussca experience and tend to go straight into the deep healing and teaches, with minimal purging. Ideally, start a program of healthy eating, exercise and meditation at least two months before coming. If your retreat is sooner than that, begin as soon as you can. Any efforts in these three areas will have a positive impact on your experience.
The Ayahuasca Diet
Working with ayahuasca also involves adherence to a special diet which prepares your body, mind and spirit to incorporate the healing energy of the medicinal brew.
The diet we follow at the Hummingbird ayahuasca center is in keeping with the teachings of ayahuasqueros from across the Peruvian Amazon. Diet and healthy eating are essential components of your preparation for working with ayahuasca.
The cleaner your body and system are when you arrive on an ayahuasca retreat, the more beautiful and more productive your time with the medicine can be.
To get the most from your time with ayahuasca, please abstain from the following foods both before and after your retreats:
Two Weeks Before and After:
- All street/recreational drugs
- Marijuana (the longer without it the better)
- All forms of medication
- Any form of sexual activity, including solo.
- Chilies, or other hot and spicy foods
- Begin reducing refined sugars, salt and caffeine and other stimulants.
One Week Before and After:
- Refined sugars
- Oily greasy foods. Healthy oils such as olive, fish or coconut oils are fine.
- Red meat
- Junk food and unhealthy snacks
- Soft drinks and chocolate
- All artificial sweeteners
- Caffeine and stimulants
- Dairy products