“…As I flowed into this, I felt a lightness wash over me and then this experience quickly went beyond words…
The whole room then began to glow with this inner-radiance and an intense feeling of “pure-love” (the most intensely positive feeling I have experienced in MY LIFE) began to flow up from my chest like smoke and fill the entire room. I was being bathed in light, energy and warmth. I was getting embraced by the cosmos…
…This feeling became so strong and warming that tears streamed down my face. I sat with this feeling for over an hour, infinitely grateful for this wonderful gift”
I will never forget this.
Crossing into the unknown
This is your first hurdle in your journey of healing but be forewarned, do not judge ayahuasca by your first ceremony. It is a bit of a “roll of the dice” if you will have a good or challenging experience. I have heard comments such as “that was incredible” (in a good way) to “That was the worst experience of my life” Knowing that this can go either way can be helpful if the journey gets challenging. I can say that without exception the experience will not be the same every time.
-The Fear- I have never met anyone who said that they are not nervous. Fear of not coming back “normal” from the experience (you will), fear of it being too intense (you can handle it no matter what). Everyone has fear going in and it runs the gamut from mild apprehension to full blown terror. This is usually based simply on fear of the unknown. The vast majority of first-timers come back with glowing stories of positive experiences. Some do have a difficult time but that is usually due to fear of letting go or trying to control the experience (not recommended).
-The Taste of ayahuasca- Your first taste will be unpleasant but usually not “horrible”. It has been described many ways but most agree that it tastes similar to burnt coffee, fermented leaves and mud.
The bad news- the more times you drink, the worst it tastes- sad but true. By the end of your retreat you may gag while watching others drink. At this point I cannot even watch a video of someone drinking without looking away as they drink. The smell is unforgettable also.
A tip- A few drops of peppermint oil (bring some) or lemon or lime slices sucked after drinking ayahuasca can cut the taste. Yeah, it’s that bad!
– Purging (La Purga)-
This seems to be what many articles and videos focus on but it is just a part of the process. Yes, the majority of participants will vomit although some do not; I have never ever vomited from ayahuasca. On the bright side most describe vomiting as your body purging toxins that are both physical and psychological. It is as if you are vomiting past trauma and “negative energy”. The experience usually lightens after purging and many participants report that the experience turns blissful after. This is also when most of the visions begin.
What to expect in the ceremony room
Generally speaking (as it varies at every retreat center) ceremonies begin around 7-9 pm. You will enter the maloka and choose your spot.
-INSIDER TIP-Once you lhave selected your spot in the maloka, count the number of cots on your right or left so that you have a guideline when leaving the maloka in the dark as it is quite disorienting to be under the effects of ayahuasca and trying to go to the bathroom or to go back to your room after the ceremony. Sitting next to the door or directly across from the door helps when staggering around, trust me on that.
Be sure to bring a water bottle (for rinsing your mouth), a blanket as ayahuasca can make you feel cold and a small flashlight. A small flashlight that can be worn on a lanyard around your neck is great thing to have handy during the ceremonies. This is a great help when trying to find your way to the bathrooms in total darkness.
After finding your spot you will then wait until the shaman arrives. After some settling in you will be called up to the shaman’s table and he/she will pour the amount they feel is best for you.
TIP: If you are SUPER nervous, it is usually okay to ask for a “half dose”. Many centers will allow you to have a booster later in the night if you wish. Just be sure to wait about two hours before you have a booster. Any sooner and the first dose may not yet have peaked.
Once the shaman hands you the cup take a moment to “put your intention” into the cup (ask ayahuasca what you wish to get from the ceremony-more about that later). This is the point of “no return” embrace it and try to swallow it all in one big gulp!
After this just hand the cup back and go back to your seat or cot. You may want to rinse out your mouth and spit this into your vomit-bowl that will be waiting for you next to your cot. Once everyone has gone up to drink the shaman will blow out the candle (or turn off the lights). The shaman usually will start singing icaros (sacred songs) after about 15- 45 minutes or so. For me, the first indication that the others are “feeling” the medicine is the sound of others vomiting or retching. You get used to this quite quickly. I have not experienced extreme nausea or vomiting. Some participants don’t ever vomit. Other participants vomit throughout the whole experience but most just once or twice. I have never ever vomited but I am rare in that respect. Shortly after this you may become aware of wispy to quite overwhelming visual images. For some it may be like colored clouds flowing by or multicolored webs flowing across your field of vision (eyes open or closed)
After that you may experience the “flashing of images” which for me in my early ceremonies I called the “Evil clown” stage. It was cartoon like mental images that would pop into my mind much like visual day dreams, not distressing or scary, just “there”.
After that you may be highly aware of sounds and smells, not too pleasant as your travel partners may be vomiting loudly. It can get quite comical as long as you retain a sense of humor about the situation. A room full of people who have spent a lot of money to sit in a dark room and vomit, there’s a subtle bit of dark humor to that.
If you are feeling disoriented just remember to focus attention on the shaman. This will help through this ‘adjustment time” After that you may feel strong emotions or have thoughts and/or insights (pleasant and/or negative) come up. As you process these thoughts it is like you are PURGING the mental garbage you have been storing up during your lifetime.
During the ceremony the shaman will typically come and work on each participant individually. This involves singing icaros or shaking the chacapa (dried leaf rattle) rhythmically next to you. Sometimes the shaman will blow tobacco smoke on you. It is all part of the ceremony and it can be quite helpful. I have always found this to be the halfway point in the ceremonies.
After 3-4 hours the Icaros will slow in intensity and things will wind down. After a period of silence the shaman will light a candle and say “Ceremony is over” and you can go to your room or many places will allow you to stay in the maloka. Once all participants get to know each other “hanging out” after the ceremony can be an incredibly amazing experience. Having gone through the experience gives you a sense of camaraderie with others; you have all journeyed across the cosmos and come back. It is a great bonding experience.
More than any other advice I can give is LET IT WORK! Surrender 100% to whatever it brings you. Also it is helpful to remember that no matter what, you ALWAYS come back 100% and even if it is a very challenging ceremony you will benefit from it.
From The Ayahuasca Retreat Traveler’s Guide by John Klein
Inside this guide you’ll learn:
• Does it REALLY heal depression and anxiety? (what I have witnessed)
• Prices -Are the most expensive centers the best? (Not always and I’ll tell you why)
• Are “road accessible” or “down-river” centers better? (pros and cons of each)
• What is the food and accommodations like? (I give specifics)
• Getting to Peru and arriving in Iquitos (where to go and where to avoid)
• What is the Amazon really like and is it safe?
• Preparing for your trip- what you really need to pack.
• Arriving at the center and preparing for your ceremonies- helpful tips.
• Tips to deal with pre-ceremony anxiety and fear
• What is the first Ceremony like? What do I need to know?
• 3 simple yet powerful tips for getting the maximum benefit from the ceremonies
• Useful techniques for turning a difficult ceremony into a positive experience
• In and around Iquitos- things to do while in the Amazon.