Why Prepare for Ayahuasca?
How we prepare our mind and body in the weeks leading up to an ayahuasca retreat can make a significant difference in both the experience we have during ceremony, and the lasting results we receive from our time with this mystical medicine. The journey of healing includes releasing the energies of suppressed emotions, confronting our belief systems, and examining our shadow, the hidden aspects of our nature we do not want to acknowledge.
Ayahuasca accelerates this process by helping us see the hidden parts of our mind, the unconscious, the shadow. It allows us to see, experience and release hidden fears, sorrow and traumas that falsely shape much of our perception of reality. On the positive side, Ayahuasca also shows us the good that is an inherent part of us all, the love and joy that is a part or our essence and can never be lost, the truly positive aspects of ourselves that we may not believe are there.
At least two of weeks of preparation is important for getting the most of your time with Ayahuasca. When we show up with a fairly clean body and clear mind, ayahuasca can get right to work on clearing the deeper energies we have accumulated and teaching us about our true natures and what we need to do to live a happy, healthy life.
If one does not follow the preparation guidelines, most of the first few ceremonies are spent simply cleaning the body, calming the mind, and preparing it for deeper healing and teaching, usually accompanied by lots of nausea and purging. Much of that can be avoided if the guidelines are followed
Begin Preparation Early
The earlier you begin preparing for ayahuasca the more pleasant and productive your time with the medicine will be. The concept is simple: The cleaner your body and mind are when you arrive, the less work ayahuasca has to do before it can show you the good stuff! We recommend you begin preparation at least two or three months ahead of time if possible. While that may seem onerous, these steps are just a part healthy living and good self-care.
Ayahuasca can be described as a mirror to our subconscious minds, revealing hidden fears, avoidance, self-deception, unprocessed emotion, and negative thought patterns. Collectively referred to as our “shadow self”, ayahuasca brings us face to face with these hidden emotional and energetic blockages and false beliefs that we may have covered up with a variety of addictions and distractions.
Facing, acknowledging and accepting these hidden parts of ourselves is an essential part of the ayahuasca healing process. Letting go of beliefs of what we “should” be, and accepting what is actually present is critical to living an authentic life. Coming to acceptance of our shadow is done by facing it and feeling it: going through it. This can be uncomfortable, frightening, painful. We may not want to acknowledge certain aspects of ourselves because they do not align with what we were conditioned to believe we should be.
Becoming willing to step into the possibility of discomfort, pain and fear is an important part of preparing for your ayahuasca retreat. Do not come expecting the process to be difficult, because it does not always have to be.
The experience of ayahuasca can be beautiful, joyful, loving, while it is healing us. Come willing to step into the challenge if it becomes necessary, willing to do whatever it takes to get the healing you are looking for. This attitude of willingness to allow unpleasant and difficult experiences, trusting the discomfort is just part of the healing process, can remove any aspect of suffering. We do not suffer from what we welcome.
Mindfulness is simply the process of calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Its paying attention to our inner world, not the outer. Being in the present moment. Practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi help develop mindfulness. It is really just about paying attention to what you are doing and how you are feeling and thinking about it.
Mindfulness is an essential part of personal growth and healing from trauma. In his book on Trauma “The Body Keeps the Score”, Besel van der Kolk says that “mindfulness practice is the cornerstone of recovery from trauma” and “At the core of recovery is self-awareness”. Ayahuasca shines a mirror on our inner world, and that can often be painful or frightening. Having some practice with gently and honestly looking at ourselves will make this part of the process much easier and beneficial.
Gary Weber, both a scientist and spiritual teacher, has a very informative talk about how the physiology of our brain affects consciousness titled The Default Mode Network & End of Suffering. How the natural function of the brain impacts our experience of thought and sense of self, of "I", and how meditation can retreaing the brain. He talks a bit of how psylocybin and ayahuasca affect the brain in the same way long term meditation does. Some understanding of the physiology of our mental process can not only give us insight into the process of change, it may also help us have a greater level of compassion and patience with ourselves on this journey of growth and awakening. We encourage all to listen to this talk.
Cultivate Gratitude and Appreciation
Intentionally cultivating and resting in higher level emotions brings significant benefits to our mind and body. All of our thoughts affect our body, releasing chemicals and hormones in accord with those thoughts. We experience that as emotion.
By intentionally directing our thoughts toward higher vibrations we can cultivate the emotions of love, joy, appreciation, helpfulness, gratitude and peace. Holding these emotions will bring the heart and mind into coherence where the mind and heart function in a steady rhythm. When our heart and mind are in coherence, out body naturally begins healing itself.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Spend Time in Nature
Being in nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Not only will a walk in the woods make you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Research has clearly indicated that spending time in nature has a clear positive effect on our wellbeing. This satirical video of a pharmacy commercial Nature Rx does a great job of portraying the benefits of time in nature.
One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general wellbeing. In one study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced.
Other studies by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a positive mood, and psychological wellbeing, meaningfulness, and vitality.
Furthermore, time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This also provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is essential for good physical and emotional health. It does not have to be strenuous to be of benefit. Something is better than nothing, and just taking a 30 minute walk 3-4 times a week can make a huge difference in how we feel about ourselves.
Our diets have an enormous impact on our lives. Food contains the building blocks of our bodies and we need a wholesome variety to stay healthy. Diet also has a surprising impact on our emotional state and the efficiency of our brains. Here are some simple guidelines for healthy eating:
- Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Dark leafy green vegetables are especially good for us.
- Whole grains such as oats, barley, quinoa.
- Avoid sugar.
- Minimize beef and pork.
- Avoid all processed foods as they are loaded with artificial additives and sugar.
The Harvard School of Public Health has published an extensive web site about nutrition. We highly recommend reading this site to learn how to eat in a healthy way. For those looking for more detailed information on nutrition, the complete report based on 30 years of research from the Harvard School of Medicine may be purchased here:
Healthy Eating - A Guide to the new nutrition. This may be the best single source about nutrition available.
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 consistent with Amazon traditions for healing. 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
- Red meat
- 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
- Eliminate refined sugars, salt and caffeine and other stimulants.
- All foods high in Tyramine, which may cause headaches and nausea when taken with strong MAOIs
- Strong or aged cheeses
- Cured meats
- Smoked or processed meats
- Pickled or fermented foods
- Dried or overripe fruits
- For more information see this Mayo Clinic Article on MAOIs and Diet
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