Ayahuasca, The magical visionary medicine of the Amazon. People have said it is life changing, that it helps you to see your true Self, your spiritual nature. That is can heal you of depression, remove blocks that have kept you stuck in ruts in your life. That it is the most beautiful and profound experience of their life. That it was the most horrible experience of their life. So what can one really expect to experience when they participate in an ayahuasca ceremony? Just about anything. Whatever you may have read about other people’s experience with ayahuasca, your experience is unlikely to be very much like them. There will be some common aspects, but the experience as a whole will be your own, unique. For that reason it is important to try and set aside any expectations one may have about what the experience will be like, and trust and accept what comes.
Pretty much anything you may have read about the ayahuasca experience is possible, and much, much more. This medicine treats people in a very individual and unique way. Perhaps this is not too surprising as one of the main things ayahuasca does is unlock the contents of our subconscious minds, and that is different for all of us. In eight plus years of guiding over 1100 people through ayahuasca retreats, I have yet to identify a single thing that one can say with confidence "when a person drinks ayahuasca, they will experience ____".
What Are the Physical Effects of Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca can have some unpleasant or simply odd and unusual physical effects. Most people will purge or vomit during the ceremony. It is known as La Purga after all. Usually, people will purge only once during a ceremony, but it is not uncommon for a person to purge three or four times. On occasion, there are people that do not purge during the course of an ayahuasca retreat. This does not mean anything is wrong or the medicine is not working, its just they way it is going for them. A person does not need to purge with ayahuasca. We will or we won’t as the medicine cleanses and purifies our bodies, but it is the norm to purge. As our bodies get cleaner, the purging diminishes or comes to an end. Diarrhea is another common physical effect of ayahuasca, but probably only half the people that drink in any given ceremony will get that.
- Trembling and shaking of arms and legs. You may find your arms or legs moving in patterns without your conscious control.
- Very long yawns where your mouth feels a foot wide.
- Tears falling without feeling sad. You may start sobbing uncontrollably as deep pain and sorrow is release, though you may not know what you are crying about.
- Feeling very cold.
- Feeling very hot and dripping in sweat.
- Feeling completely drained of energy and that you do not have the strength to move.
- Feeling very heavy, pressed into the floor as if the force of gravity had doubled or tripled.
- Feeling highly energized, wanting to get up and dance to the singing or music.
- Very strong surges of energy moving through the body.
- Feeling dissociated from your body. Many people say they reached out to touch their legs to make sure they were there. Some people feel they have left their body, and a few say they rose above it and could see their body below them.
- Extreme nausea that may last an hour or more. It is best to not make yourself throw up seeking relief from the nausea and just let the medicine do its work. You will vomit or not in the medicine’s time.
- Feelings of bliss and euphoria.
- Feeling physically strong, powerful and completely healthy and whole.
- Feeling something touching your body, but nothing is there.
- Feeling like insects are crawling on your body. This is an effect of the healing process and is a positive sign.
- Hearing humming vibrating sounds
As you can see, this is a very diverse and lengthy list. All of the above are common physical experiences with ayahuasca and you may have physical effects that are not on this list. You may not feel any of these in a given ceremony, and it is possible to experience all of them in a single ceremony. What is more common is to experience just a few in a given ceremony, and that can vary from night to night.
What Will I Experience Emotionally With Ayahuasca?
The emotional side of an ayahuasca experience can get pretty intense. One of the ways that ayahuasca works is that whatever we are carrying inside of us, we tend to experience it in a magnified way. Ayahuasca can show us how we show up in day to day life in a way we cannot deny nor hide from, and that can get uncomfortable to say the least. Not that it is all unpleasant. Our problem areas and character defects are where the most positive change can lie, but it can also show us how beautiful and special we are. In any case, don’t be surprised if what you are feeling is much stronger than almost any emotional experience you have had in the past.
A list of emotions like we did for the physical side is not very helpful here as you can experience the full range of human emotion. It can be helpful to discuss how they can come up.
All of us have experienced pain, sorrow and regret. Whether it is from things that happened to us, being mistreated by others, poor decisions we have made, treating others unjustly, or simply the ups and downs of life. If we are still clinging to these events and holding harmful emotional energy around them, this medicine can bring them into our ceremony experience. This can simply be memories that come up in an enhanced way, often ones we have not thought about for years. This can be a time of pondering and reflection. We can experience deep emotion of how we were affected by events, and be guided to a place of forgiveness. Sometimes we get to experience other people’s emotional side of the situation so we clearly understand how we affected them.
If are holding deep sorrow we may enter a profound emotional release of intense crying, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling completely overwhelmed and like we are falling apart. While it may be unpleasant and a bit frightening in the moment, this is a time of deep and lasting emotional and energetic healing and is nothing to be afraid of. Willingness is the key, the willingness to do whatever is necessary to get the healing and change we are looking for.
Fear is a powerful emotion that releases many hormones into our body so it also has a physical effect. It is an emotion we natural want to avoid and escape when it comes. Most of us carry some form of fear, and in many cases they are of things that are highly unlikely to happen. As ayahuasca begins healing these fears we may experience them in a magnified way. Remember it is just an experience in your mind and you are safe. Do not try to banish or resist the fear, but examine it, look at it, maybe even talk to it as if it was a conscious being. Ask what it wants, why is it there. Simply being grateful for something can lessen the force of the fear. Trust that the medicine is healing you and that you are in a safe ceremonial space. With willingness and courage to face the fear we can learn that there really is nothing there, that the fear is just an idea, thought form, and illusion. Once this realization takes hold we can be free of it forever.
Love, Joy and Peace
– It is with good reason many talk about the efficacy of ayahuasca in helping advance our spiritual lives. Not only does it help clear the blocks that can stunt our growth, if we are ready it can give us mystical experiences of the kind spoken of by spiritual masters of the ages. A lucky few get to have what they describe as union with God or oneness with the universe experiences. Even if we do not get these, it can provide us with a direct experience of our true natures, or simply let us fully experience the beauty, love and joy that is within us all. Intense joy, love, peace and bliss may arise. We have had people crying for joy, overwhelmed by love. As the mystics have all said, it can be awe inspiring and truly beyond words. These are referred to as peak experiences for a reason and one should not expect to stay at these heightened states.
As the false beliefs of our subconscious minds are cleared we gain a greater acceptance of and contentment with who and what we are. We just like ourselves better. This brings a simple peace and happiness of just being ourselves, that under the magnifying effects of ayahuasca can feel wonderful indeed!
What Kind of Visions Will I Have With Ayahausca?
The visionary aspect of ayahuasca is one of its better know qualities, and they can indeed be beautiful, inspiring and fun. But not everyone has visions when they drink ayahuasca. Some people will have rich, visionary experiences every time they drink, most will have visions in at least some of their ceremonies, and a few will not have visions in any of their ceremonies. This does not mean the medicine is not working. While visions can be very beneficial in the learning and healing process, they are not necessary and equal change can occur with or without them. Our page Varieties Of Ayahausca Experience has a description of the different kinds of characteristic ayahuasca experience.
As usual, what you may see when you drink ayahuasca can be anything at all. There are some common things that people see, and a list can be helpful with this topic. There is no predicting what will show up in any ceremony, so you may not see any of these items, or something completely different than anything on the list.
- Brightly colored, moving geometric patterns. These happen at the beginning of the experience and are a DMT effect that lasts 5-15 minutes.
- Scenes of the jungle. Plants, insects and animals.
- Snakes are very common and usually represent the spirit of ayahuasca and are nothing to be afraid of.
- Large cats such as pumas, jaguars or tigers. These are protector spirits and positive encounter.
- Scenes of Egypt or North American medicine men.
- Large, intelligent insectoid beings that are examining you.
- An experience of having surgery, being on an operating table with beings working on your body. I have never heard of anyone being frightened or feeling pain during this experience.
- Traveling in outer space, in the galaxy, seeing beautiful nebulas and other astral phenomena.
- Being taken to different worlds, entering other dimensions and realities clearly different that this earthly one.
- Being taken into the void, a place of stillness and darkness where nothing is happening. This is the same space that can be experienced in deep meditation.
- Meeting spirits of infinite variety of forms.
- Seeing very scary, demonic looking beings that seem to want to attack you. Don’t be afraid. Ask if it is there for you highest good. This often happens in the first couple of ceremonies and seems to be a test. As soon as you show you are not frightened it tends to stop. Don’t forget or underestimate the power of love. When we send love to things beings they will often transform or go away.
- Being visited by the spirits of deceased loved ones or family members.
- Having the experience of being a different person and seeing life and events from their perspective.
- Becoming an animal, bird or insect. This can be very fun!
- Feeling like you are being taken apart, disassembled, fragmenting into billions of molecules. This can be a bit frightening, but is a very healing and cleansing process. Let it happen. You will definitely come back, and any people say they feel reborn after such an experience, like they have been made anew.
Visions are not the point of ayahuasca, healing is. While most people definitely want to have that experience as it can be amazing and remarkable, it may not happen. What is important about this work is not the experience you have while at a retreat, not how you feel as you are heading home. What is important is the long term benefits, is your life better a year or more down the road for having done this.
Trust the Medicine
Any of the things mentioned could happen during your ayahuasca ceremony. You might also have a ceremony where none of those things happen. This is a very unpredictable medicine and what is most important is to trust it and accept that it is doing what it needs to to bring about the results you are asking for. It can be strange, beautiful, frightening, boring, uneventful or awe inspiring. The meaning may be crystal clear, or it might make no sense at all and seem to have no purpose. Trust and accept. What has become clear to me in the years facilitating ayahuasca ceremonies is the medicine spirits know what they are doing and take each individual through the process that they need for their growth and healing. Your experience will almost certainly be different than anything you have read about other people’s, so try to avoid comparison and set aside expectations.
Ayahuasca and the medicine spirits want to help us and know us far better than we know ourselves. If we can trust them, trust the process and surrender to the experience, our lives truly can be transformed in a very short period of time.