A Journey with Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca is a medicinal vine that grows in the Amazon rainforest. In Quechua, the indigenous language of the Inca empire, it means Spirit (Aya) Vine (Huasca). For thousands of years this healing plant has been used in ritualistic ceremonies overseen by indigenous shamans, known as ayahuasceros, to treat both physical and psychological maladies. But perhaps more significant are the hallucinogenic effects it produces allowing those seeking spiritual enlightenment to journey out of this world and into other dimensions including visiting the past and the future.
In addition to the profound healing qualities it produces, a journey with Ayahuasca is a journey beyond this space time dimension.
Needless to say there is much controversy in western culture about its uses and validity. Yet the cross-cultural global focus on the importance of spiritual awareness in a world gone haywire has brought people from all walks of life to experiment with “La Medicina” (the medicine).
Spiritual seekers gather in small groups, assembled in living rooms and natural settings around the world, without the guidance of a professionally trained shaman. Despite its growing popularity, the proper use of ayahuasca remains critically important and should not be undervalued.
Throughout the tribal societies of the Amazon, the guidelines for its application and use are strictly monitored by the well trained shamans, who are the spiritual and holistic healers whose history is deeply rooted in the South American culture.
This is a story of my personal journey with Ayahuasca. The purpose of sharing this journey is to shed light on the facts, and help dispel misunderstandings of this plant medicine.
My first experience with “La Abulita,” or “Little Grandmother,” (ayahuasca’s spirit name), was in Peru. I spent a month apprenticing with shamans in the remote part of the Amazon jungle near Iquitos in 2016. During that spiritual journey, I did a ceremony with ayahuasca 7 times. One year later, I participated in a ceremony near my home in Costa Rica, with a group of 22 people from all over the world who gathered together under a full moon overlooking the ocean.
Instead of a professional shaman, the ceremony was led by a westerner who had been studying shamanism for several years in South America. I imagined that it would be a good journey, because he had studied. However, the batch of ayahuasca was mild, and relatively innocuous. Important fact: Ayahuasca doesn’t travel well. Its preparation is complicated, and takes hours to activate, ideally a slow cook over an open fire. Once it’s ready, it is meant to consume immediately. It doesn’t have a good shelf life, and again, it doesn’t travel well. This is further reason to go to the source to experience the magic. Go to the Amazon to experience the medicine. If you can, experience ayahuasca in its proper environment. In hindsight, I didn’t really get much out of the Costa Rica ceremony. It was a very different experience from the medicine I received in the Amazon.
The role of the shaman is critically important, as the shaman is the spiritual link whose role is to help connect to the Spirit of the plant through the icaros – the ancestral healing songs performed by the shaman during ceremony. The icaros are unique to each shaman, and they are not transcribed. You cannot go into a music store or bookstore and find a copy of icaros! They are handed down generation to generation, father to son, shaman to apprentice. This is why, when your shaman is a westerner with no cultural foundation rooted in the Amazon, well, your experience is probably going to be lackluster!
In a true ayahuasca ceremony led by a well trained shaman, the ceremony would begin with a cleansing. The shaman uses a type of noisy leaf duster made with palm branches bunched together called a chacapa. Often the shaman will tap you on the head and shoulders with the chacapa while whistling or singing iquaros. The purpose of the cleansing and the iquaros is to open portals to illicit the plant spirits and create space for the spirit guides of the participants to enter. In a proper ceremony, the shaman will blow sacred tobacco smoke (mapacho), into the face and over the crown of the head of the participant which cleanses and protects the atmosphere and the auric field of the participant.
In my experience led by the western so-called shaman in Costa Rica, this integral part of the ceremony was omitted. This is a perfect example of why it’s vitally important to make sure the individual administering the medicine is authentic. Personally, I would never again engage in an ayahuasca ceremony without a legitimate shaman from an indigenous tribal culture, such as the Chechua and Chichua. There is very little danger, if any, in taking ayahuasca if you are under the supervision of a proper shaman. But there are risks associated with taking the medicine outside the indigenous tribal regions of the Amazon.
Individuals taking certain pharmaceutical drugs, or suffering from high blood pressure may be affected adversely. Or, if the batch made by an “outsider” it may simply be too weak, producing little or no effect on your body, defeating the whole purpose. This was my experience taking ayahuasca under the guidance of a westerner. Never again!
Ayahuasca in Ecuador
A week ago I flew from Costa Rica to Quito, Ecuador. From there, I headed south-east through the canton of Tena. It was a six hour bus ride from Quito to Tena through the jungle without a soul in sight. Once I arrived in Tena, it was another hour drive traveling by car on a dirt road leading even deeper into the jungle to reach my destination where I would meet my new shaman, Leonardo.
Leonardo is a fourth generation Chichuan shaman. When I first met him, he was accompanied by his family, which is quite typical. Each time I’ve been in ceremony, the shamans have brought their loved ones – at least their wife. In Peru, I was surprised to see the shaman’s wife partaking in the ayahuasca ceremony as well. This time, Leonardo brought his wife, daughter and son. While the wife and daughter did not participate, his son Rumi did. He was 25 years old and apprenticing with his father. He drank the ayahuasca with me. It was a private ceremony, with just Leonardo, his family, and myself. Present also was Carlos, my gatekeeper. Usually during ceremony, there is an additional person present who stays by your side to help you when you get sick, and to help you to the bathroom because once under the influence, it’s difficult to walk and you need assistance.
Preparing for the Ayahuasca Ceremony – La Dieta
It is critically important to follow the ayahuasca diet for at least a week before ceremony. Ideally longer, but I’m not that disciplined. A week is fine if you are a healthy person, who takes no pharmaceutical drugs, and has a relatively clean diet. Basically, you have to give up everything except natural fruits and vegetables. If you look on the internet you will find a lot of different versions of the diet, but simply put, eliminate the following: Meat; spices; alcohol; oils; coffee; dairy; gluten; artificial foods; sugar; all recreational drugs; any medications (check with the shaman).
At the lodge where I am staying, I’ve been eating only fresh vegetables and fruit, that’s it. This process lasts a week, and on the day of ceremony, you should basically not eat, or eat very little, and nothing after 12:00 noon if you plan of taking ayahuasca that evening. Ceremonies are always held at night, usually starting shortly after dusk, and lasting throughout the night. By 4:00 am you should be clear.
My Ceremony Last Night
During my initial meeting with Leonardo, we discussed what my intentions were regarding my spiritual journey. He also inquired as to my health, and if I needed any healing for my body. I mentioned that I had an ongoing, slightly disturbing pain in my abdomen that had been going on for a few weeks. Leonardo asked me what I hoped to discover through the visions that would certainly be the major event of the night. I told him I was asking La Abuelita to assist in expanding my own abilities as a healer, a shaman in my own right, as I have been studying natural healing and mediumship my entire life – it is my life purpose. Ceremony was scheduled to begin at 8:00 pm.
After a deep meditation where I set my intentions with Spirit, I met up with Leonardo, Rumi, and Carlos, and we walked about 15 minutes through the jungle along the banks of the Napo River to a grass hut where a tent had been set up for the purpose of providing protection from any creatures of the night… snakes, rodents, spiders and scorpions. In the tent I was able to lay down once the effects of the ayahuasca kicked in. But beforehand, we all sat outside beside the river, on tree stumps. The shaman was naked except for a short skirt made of leather. On his head he wore a traditional ceremonial crown made of leaves and feathers. I was dressed all in white, for sacred ceremony. First, Leonardo poured some liquid into the palm of my right hand. He told me to snort it. I thought it was the ayahuasca, and I was a bit surprised because this was new to me. They didn’t do this in Peru.
“This is the ayahuasca?” I asked. “No, this is tobacco water, and it will purify and cleanse you in preparation for the ayahuasca.”
It was gnarly. It stung my nose and made me nauseous. But boy oh boy, two seconds later I felt like I had the energy to climb Mt. Everest.
“Oh that works.” I said laughing.
Then he poured another bit into my left hand, and I snorted it up. Same response. There was something important about using both hands, because I extended my right hand first to take the second dose, but he insisted I use my left hand.
Then came the ayahuasca. It was a red liquid, about 1/4 cup. I drank it. Bitter and extremely unpleasant in my opinion, and immediately I wanted to gag.
Carlos handed me a bottle of water and told me to rinse my mouth. That was good. Weird though, the water tasted like sugar. I even asked why he put sugar in it, but he said it was just plain water.
The shaman told me to go lie down until the medicine started to take effect, and then to come outside to begin ceremony. I have a very slow metabolism so for me, it took a bit more than an hour to activate. For most people, activation time is about 45 minutes.
At first I just felt dizzy, and light-headed. I went outside the tent, and sat on the tree stump next to the shaman. He began singing and whistling the traditional shamanic iquaros, as they have been handed down for centuries. These are sacred prayers the shaman sings as he calls in the spirits and gives praise to the directions – north, south, east, west, and the upper, middle, and lower realms. All the dimensions of the universe are celebrated in ceremony.
Then, Leonardo grabbed his chacapa – the bushel of sacred leaves bound together with twine which he used to hit me over the head and shoulders. It was pleasant, and relaxing. Almost like a head massage, it feels really good. In between this action he smoked sacred tobacco and at various intervals, he blew the smoke into my face and into the top of my skull, aiming for the pineal gland. While he blew the smoke into the crown of my head, he made strange guttural noises that sounded like a jaguar growling. It was very odd, because he really sounded like a wild animal. After an hour, the nausea began to set in.
Throwing Up is a Major Part of the Ayahuasca Experience
Throwing up is good. Vomiting is essential to the experience because it is purifying. If you don’t throw up, it’s not working. Well, if you take the medicine over and over, as do the shamans, and as did Rumi, eventually you won’t throw up. But I always do, and it’s not bad, it actually feels good. The idea behind the purge, is that you are literally expelling all dis-ease from your body. Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual illness will exit your body, via the purging. That’s its purpose, and I guarantee you will feel fresh, revitalized, and renewed afterwards. At least I always do.
Visions of Spirits and Journeying to Outer Dimensions
Every ceremony is different, and your journey is particular to your own spiritual quest. My last journey with La Abuelita was transformational indeed. I was surrounded by angels, and keepers of the wisdom. I don’t need to go into detail because it’s personal, and no one can understand your soul’s journey except You. Some people report seeing demons and frightening visions, but I have never experienced anything negative with ayahuasca. On the contrary, each experience has been revolutionary and expanding in my ability to connect with Spirit. I have never seen a demon, nor any negative vision. But that is my story.
I have witnessed people who experience negative emotions and terrifying hallucinations during ceremony. But eventually their demons are conquered, and by the end of the night, the ones who felt traumatized eventually experience their own enlightenment. Individuals who struggle in their relationships with both themselves and others, or those who are not spiritually awakened, may experience challenges during ceremony. You have to decide for yourself how you get along with the planet, and everything and everybody on it. Individuals who have had scary visions ultimately awaken with an understanding of its source – but only afterwards. Going through it must be challenging, but that’s the purpose. I have been lucky to only see the light energies and angelic beings, but I work on my own mind and spirit every day of my life. I monitor my thoughts and train my mind to produce only healthy thoughts because life is so much more rewarding when you plant a garden of flowers instead of weeds.
Healing My Gut Ache
Once I was fully activated by the ayahuasca, Leonardo told me to lift my shirt so he could apply tobacco water to my abdomen at the location where I said I was experiencing pain. He rubbed the liquid over my stomach, and then made a motion with his hands as if he were grabbing something inside of me, which he then clutched in the palm of his hand which he held tightly closed. He then blew breath into his palm, and cast whatever was trapped inside off to the side, making a large arm gesture as if to throw it far into the distance.
He repeated this action three times. When he threw the contents of “disease” from his hand into the jungle, again he made the sound like a jaguar gurgling. I didn’t feel anything inside of me during this process. Then he repeated the procedure on my lower back, as if he were grabbing the dis-ease from both directions. Again he clutched the contents he had collected from my gut into the palm of his hand, casting it into the ethers. This was the healing.
The ayahuasca usually tapers off after about three or four hours depending on your dose. All you do is just lie down, look up at the stars if you can, and eventually you will return to this dimension and planet earth. There is no hangover, and in the days following you will feel a renewed energy, clarity in mind and body. Often those who have issues with addiction will find their cravings disappear. Mental distress is dissolved, and a deep sense of well-being is typical. Regarding the pain in my abdomen, it’s completely gone.
I hope this helps you understand more clearly the ayahuasca experience. While this medicine may not be for everyone, I highly recommend it for any seeker who desires spiritual awakening, healing from emotional trauma, drug or alcohol addiction, or just connecting to your life purpose. The medicine provides a peaceful journey out of this dimension, into a world outside the space time reality to the eternal realm, bringing divine awareness that You are indeed, connected, and protected by Spirit, now, and forevermore.