WHERE TO START?!
It’s so hard to know where to start with this one….
I would ask you to imagine for a just a small moment that your world has turned upside down, that you are unable to see a world with colour in front of you… hope as you previously knew it was an illusion of grandeur… which left you feeling like there was nothing left to cling onto… caught in a world of dreams by fools and fools of dreams…a battle with Hopeless Joy! (Wow… Deep… I know… but I have your attention!!)
Now, imagine for a moment that you are offered an idea of freedom from that, and a way to turn your life around… Traveling and Ayahuasca as the starting point has been that freedom.
My Ayahusaca retreat and trip to Selva Madre Iquitos, in Peru of May just gone by, has been such a personal and transformational journey. One which is still in progress and of which I will continue to learn and grow from as the months, and hopefully as the years go by also.
WHAT IS THIS AYAHUASCA BUSINESS?! – The Science bit!
A few months back, a colleague of mine (who could visibly see I was short of cracking under the pressures of the stress of the past two years), mentioned ‘Ayahuasca’ to me. I had absolutely zero idea of what he was talking about initially, however he knew that I was interested in all things holistic, natural and alternative, and that I was quite interested also in plant medicine. So, I listened to what he had to say, and decided to investigate it myself a little further.
My initial understanding was that this was some sort of miracle plant that the indigenous peoples of South America, more locally to Peru and the Amazon Basin, had been using for thousands of years to connect deep within themselves. They used this medicine as a way of un-earthing and rooting out the causes of our own self manufactured misery and in turn purging this dis-ease from our bodies so that we may start all over again. A kind of Big Red Re-set button. So, naturally I had to know more….
…Why did I not know about this before? If it’s so good then why is it not being used worldwide in medicine already? (the answer for this is usually because the big multinational drug companies would be out of business tomorrow morning with such a wonderdrug!), Was it safe to use? How do I know what’s a real Ayahuasca centre from a bogie one? Where does it come from and Where could I go to experience and learn more about this?
So… I started my research by watching a You Tube Documentary called ‘DMT – The Spirit Molecule’ which would explain a little more about it.
I also looked up many retreat centres to see what they were all offering and obviously looked up as much information on this Ayahuasca as possible. It’s funny… Have you ever bought a new car and then you start to see the same type everywhere you go, but you never saw it before…. or the same happens with a word you have never heard before… as soon as you hear it once you hear it everywhere too… so, as soon as I had heard of Ayahuasca it seemed to crop up everywhere for me. As soon as I started mentioning it to people, although most hadn’t heard of it, those who had heard of it already had nothing but keen interest in it and seemed pretty envious of my idea of going to one of these retreats in Peru!
Ayahuasca, translated means ‘Vine of the Dead’, or ‘Soul Vine’, and is found in the Jungles of the Amazon. It’s appearance is that of a beautifully twisted vine who’s distinctive transected pattern when cut in half looks like a beautiful flower and is often used in jewellery. There are three main Ayahuasca vines White, Black or Yellow, with Cielo (White) and Black being the most common used vines.
As with any plant species there are also toxic Ayahuasca vine variations that when consumed can cause rashes, and severe blurring of the eyes as well as other nasty side effects. It is quite common to be approached on the streets of Iquitos and other popular Ayahusca retreat destination areas, by hawkers looking for small money in promise for a Ayahuasca Trip – which should be avoided at all costs!
You wouldn’t buy a second hand parachute from a guy on the street would you?!
What exactly is it??
Ayahuasca refers to a a type of tea or Brew which is generally traditionally brewed using the Ayahuasca Vine together with the leaves of the Chacruna plant, or Banisteriopsis caapi. Both Ayahuasca and Chacruna contain a substance called DMT, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, which is essentially is a molecule found naturally occuring in many plants and animals. When ingested, Ayahuasca’s componants are broken down in the stomach and an enzyme called MAO is released to break down the DMT which is then expelled from the body. This means that the effects of the vine are short lived.
Using Ayahusaca alone can provide a very small window into the experience, effects and benefits of the vine, however as it is broken down so quickly it’s effects are extremely short lived.
This is where the magic happens… The reason that the Ayahuasca brew is made with Chacruna leaves also, is because Chacruna leaves also contain a chemical called a MAO inhibitor (MAOI). This essentially means that it stops/ inhibits the MAO enzymes from breaking down the DMT in the Ayahuasca so quickly, which in turn means that the psychotrophic effects of the plants are then allowed to be experienced in a slower process, gaining a window into the realm of Ayahuasca, and to experience the spiritual health benefits of the vine.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? – What happens when you take it?
Before we get to the nitty gritty… I know, I know… You’re shouting – ‘Get on with it!’…
It’s important to stress that this is not a drug! I remember reading during my research, that Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug… it’s a medicine and anybody who takes it will know why… and this is so completely true!
Not only does Ayahuasca taste pretty awful (sort of like harshly burned treacle mixed with the dust of a 20 year old cigarette ashtray), but you must be prepared for change to occur. You must be willing to accept the inevitable truths you learn from it, and appreciate that this plant medicine comes passed on to you from thousands of generations of Shamanic rituals and traditions in the jungle. This medicine was used to heal physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually… and if you are skeptical of its abilities then I can guarantee if you drink it you will appreciate there must have been some reason, and some sort of positive outcomes from its consumption, in order that it survived being drank generation by generation….more especially because of the taste!
Since Ayahuasca is a brew made by the Shamans of the Amazonian Basin, and as it is their ritual and their medicine, then my personal feelings are we should respect that and so it should only be consumed with real Shamans.
Ayahuasca is generally consumed in the night time when the earths energy is cleaner, there is less noise interference from the outside world and it is generally cooler than lying in a sun heated temple during the day.
The room consists of the Shamans Tables (depending on the retreat centre there will usually be anywhere from 2- 4 Shamans, generally always more than one) at the top of the room where they have their Shacpa (a hand rattle made from plant leaves, which is used to guide the Icaros and also to keep away negative spirits). On the table you will also see a selection of Talisman type items such as crystals and perfumes and colognes made from local plants and flowers (these are used to raise their energy from physical to spiritual during ceremonies, and also help to ward off bad spirits). On the table you will also find Mapacho (a tobacco smoked to blow away negative energies). Finally you will also see a bucket for vomiting into… yes folks… a bucket… and yes I did say ‘vomit’!! Even the Shamans purge!!
As anybody who knows about Ayahuasca, the first comment is always directed toward the beautiful ‘Purge’. Essentially, when taking Ayahuasca you can expect to vomit as this is part of the transformational process.
The rest of the room will have matresses on the floor (anywhere from 5 – 10 or so) with buckets beside for the participants. This sounds very seedy and basic, but essentially that’s all you need for ceremony and as strange as it may appear at first glance, it’s actually quite functional.
Purging is a typical response to the medicine as it reaches deep into your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical bodies searching for the deep rooted psychological wounds, scars and weeds you have manifested since birth and essentially the medicine acts like a weed killer for your soul… So, as soon as it gets to the root of the problems and gathers these weeds, they need to be thrown out and gotten rid of…. this is actually quite a cleansing process, albeit not the most pleasant at the time, and this my friends…is the ‘Purge’! Purging is usually done by vomitting, and so you will be sure to hear a chorus of fellow Ayahuasca travellers echoing into their buckets!!
After one ceremony I decided to rename the purge to Downward Purge, since the position one takes to purge is quite like that of the Yoga Move called Downward dog where one is on all fours… It seemed to stick!!
There is no embarrassment while purging as everybody will get their turn!! Purging can also come in the form of Diarrhea, Tears, Sweats hot and cold, stomach pains, happiness and laughter, sadness etc. but usually the quickest method is vomiting… and if you make it through a few ceremonies without vomiting, as I did, you will eventually feel like you are missing out on the big cathartic clear out!! (I eventually joined the club…everybody usually does!).
The Ayahuasca brew is given first as a small dose, about a quarter or so of an egg-cup, to see how you react to it (strong or weak), and therefore they can recommend the correct dose at each new ceremony based on your reaction to the last. The Shaman may then take your pulse before taking the medicine to see how nervous or not you are, and if you are calm and relaxed you may be prescribed a larger dose. The Shamans first say blessings, whistle, chant and blow mapacho and use cologne over themselves and the brew before dispensing it to you. Once you take the dose it can take 15-20 mins before it takes effect, sometimes it can take longer and sometimes you may have no reaction to it (which happened to me on a few occasions) however you can be sure that even then, it is doing it’s job.
As part of the ceremony, the Shamans guide you through the process using the beautiful whistling and singing melodies of their Icaros, which are traditional blessings that are handed down verbally from family tribe to family tribe, with each tribes Icaros differing slightly. These Icaros help to keep you focused during your ceremony… kind of like a snake charmer using a whistle to charm the snake from his bassinet.
As Ayahuasca is a Psychotrophic medicine you can expect visual, emotional and physical symptoms. Therefore, which again is my own personal view, it is best that these are experienced in the safe hands of the experienced Shamans, who can also then deceiifer the meanings from your ceremony in private meetings afterwards (usually a day or so later when you have had time to process it for yourself also).
The ceremony lasts approx. 2-3 hours where you would usually then leave the temple and return to your tambo/ bedroom to sleep. It is generally encouraged to leave the temple afterwards, as the Shamans consider the energy too strong there after and also feel that because Ayahuasca leaves your spirit very open after connecting with the plant medicine that you are more susceptible to negative energies attaching to you.
After ceremony the medicine would have generally worn off at this stage, however it can often stay in your system for longer, a few hours sometimes, which means you may still be able to feel the effects long after leaving the temple… however it does ware off and the worst after effect will be a restless night sleep. It is important to note that if you are in a good retreat center, they will have somebody there on standby should you need them for anything – another reason to choose a good retreat centre using real Shamans.
The experience itself is extremely personal, and individual, and can therefore be difficult to describe without having you thinking the worst!!
It is likely something you have never experienced before, and so the best approach to undergoing an Ayahuasca experience is to have absolutely zero expectations at all… I read this from research time and time again and decided that after it being said so many times there must be something in it, and it’s true… what happens for somebody else may be completely different than what will happen for you!
As they say…. Mother Ayahusaca will decide what’s important for you, so you can go in with one intention and if she feels something else is more important, well that’s where you will go… but rest assured, it’s the right direction for you!
A famous brittish band once said ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need!’
Essentially, the experience can range from having no sensation or experience at all…. to seeing optical geometric neon patterns to having day dreaming thoughts, to seeing imagery of friends, family, animals, and fairytale type creatures (good and bad). All are harmless and generally some of the imagery that we as westerners perceive as evil or bad, actually quite often have a beautiful positive explanation – again, another reason to have an experienced Shaman be able to explain and deceifer your experience). For example, seeing Goblins can quite often mean they are little Ayahuasca Doctors to help you work on something specific and you can ask them to help you!
You may also have physical experiences such as pains and feeling nauseous, which isusually a clearing of some description, or sometimes you may feel tugging and pulling, or body jolts etc. all of which again are harmless and are usually Ayahuasca’s way of drawing your attention to something specific it wants to show you. Seeing visions of Eyes are another common feature, and generally these are there to show you that you need to focus on something or to pay more attention to something you are experiencing. As Westerners we are programmed to take things very literally, and to analyse everything… so if you have a good Shaman there to help make understanding of your experience, then I suggest to leave your critical brain outside the temple, just enjoy the ride and go with your gut.
The last paragraph, for those of you who may be nervous or unsure of such an experience different to anything you have ever done or experienced yourself, may make you think…. What the hell would you be doing that for!!!?… and in fairness, before doing this I would have said the same also, but having experienced this in a safe environment with Shamans I trust, with genuine Shamans using traditional methods, I can promise you that this is an experience that will change your life for the better.
Nowhere in this world can you meet a bunch of complete strangers traveling for a life changing retreat, who along with the guidance from these Shamans, undergo such a personally transformative experience, with whom you can talk so openly, naturally and normally about your vomit and toilet habits of the ceremony from the night before along with your esotherical experiences over breakfast, and leave feeling that somehow your molecular make up has been tidied up just little… just like doing a ‘defrag’ tidy up on your computer to clear up the disk space. Like this, you leave not fully sure of how it has affected your life, but you just know that it has, and that it will take several months or possibly even years, to be able to fully see the full benefits… to be able to see the wood for the trees so to speak…!
Ayahusaca is not a toy, it is not a drug in the western sense of the word, it is not recreational drug, and is not an undertaking for anybody who is not prepared to make some changes in their life. It has been a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into the traditional world of the tribes people of the Amazon Rainforest, a place where the lungs of the earth still beat for our planet, and a place that’s thankfully relatively somewhat untouched by western contagion. Ayahuasca is a natural plant medicine which in theory should only be known by Shamans and their tribes, but they have allowed us into their world so that they can help us, so we can save ourselves from dis-ease, and so their own traditions can also be saved.
In a world where the west is forever penetrating and transforming even the most untouched areas of the world, we should be privileged to be allowed into these exclusive VIP access only clubs of the Traditional Tribal worlds. However, it is sad that this is as a result of our transforming their indigenous cultures!
The new generations of ‘would be’ Shamans are turning away from the old traditions and are now more interested in celebrities, movie stars, mobile phones, and online social media and so are more likely to abandon their local traditions, trading them in for ‘cooler’ clothes labels, and the latest must have electronics and other modern technological advances as seen on TV …and all this in order for them to be feel a part of our world and our society! These people have nothing, and their youth even in the most remote parts of the Amazon are donning old smart Phones and rip off designer labels… and so carrying on ‘Old School’ traditions that were once handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, are now dying out because it’s not ‘cool’ to be celibate and train as a Shaman in a world of sex and drugs and media, and not cool to learn ‘boring old traditions’ when they could be online.
The Western world is constantly moving in and taking over like a cancerous virus and these tribes can only allow their traditions survive by making them popular with our Western world, opening up their secrets to us in hopes to make their traditions popular again, which then in turn creates demand, which in turn encourages the younger generation to once again get involved.
So, by means of respecting how our world has encroached on their world, my own personal view is that we should be respectful to their traditions and undertake Ayahuasca through Shamanic ceremony, with only genuine indigenous Ayahuasca Shamans, in the Amazon where Ayahusaca itself is indigenous, with their tribal traditions. If you are planning to experience Ayahuasca for yourself, please consider spending your money not with a company who is owned by foreigners, but genuine Amazonian Shamans, so the money spent is being given back to those who provided us with the information, with this secret life transforming medicine, in the first place!
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you found it useful and/ or interesting! Please check out my Facebook Page, like and share, because you never know who might care!
Your Little Boho Hobo XXX