'I Tried Ayahuasca and My Life Changed Completely'
"I want to be brave". That was my focus as I drank the ayahuasca tea, a South American brew made from the psychotria viridis shrub and anisteriopsis caapi vine, which, when drunk, can cause hallucinogenic visions, vomiting and emotional release.
I was in Peru, in 2013, part way through a trip around the world. I'd left my job and flat in London because I'd been feeling overwhelmed by a sense of inertia; nothing was changing in my life, and the choices I was making weren't leading to happiness. I was sitting in my comfort zone which felt small, contained and safe, and I wanted to get out of it.
When I arrived at the Peruvian city of Cusco, I'd heard about other people's experiences of ayahuasca, but they were horror stories really; mostly featuring tourists who'd tried it in the wrong places, or even died. Ayahuasca is banned in the U.S. and the U.K. because it's natural components contain the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT). My first instinct was that I would certainly not be taking hallucinogens for the first time in a foreign country, let alone at a jungle retreat amongst strangers.
A few days later, I became friends with a fellow traveller who had spent a week at an ayahuasca retreat. He explained that the experience had been life changing and as he talked, I became more curious. As I explored the local area, more people I befriended went to ayahuasca ceremonies and came back glowing.
The vomiting and crying my friends experienced didn't appeal, but one described it as a release. Privately, I could relate to feeling a weight inside of me that I couldn't describe but wanted to let go of. After a lot of research into the ceremonies, finding a well-respected venue, and being joined by a curious friend, I had booked my spot at an overnight ceremony.
At 8pm on a Friday in Cusco, we took a local bus to Maho Templo in Pisac, about 40mins from Cusco, and stopped at a beautiful stone building surrounded by fields. Because it was a full moon, the ceremony was busier than usual; there were about 50 other people there wearing white to celebrate the full moon. The atmosphere was one of warmth and anticipation and we were guided through what to do and where to sit by the facilitators. I remember feeling some trepidation and remaining fairly quiet, taking in the hum of pre-ceremony chatter around us.
I was advised that when taking ayahuasca you should set an intention; a focus or a goal for the ceremony. After a lot of consideration, mine became simple: I wanted to be brave. I felt like I'd been hiding so much of myself for so long, that parts of me were completely cut off from the world.
We queued up to drink the tea; an unpleasant, viscous, liquid that manages to be both overly sweet and bitter before taking our seats on mats on the floor, backs against the wooden wall. After about half an hour, my hands started to vibrate. My fingers felt enormous, and as I glanced upwards, the ceiling appeared to be pulsing in and out. I was terrified. My brain felt as if it was a helium balloon trying to drift away and I was desperate to cling onto it. The more I felt the effects of the brew washing over me, the more I railed against them.
Suddenly, I heard my inner voice speaking clearly: "You can stop here, or you can be brave and let go. But you have to make the choice to be brave." Some people would say this was the voice of Mother Ayahuasca, or the spirit of the vines. To me, it was the voice of my own intuition reminding me why I was there. I took a deep breath, filled my lungs with air and let go.
What passed in the hours that followed were intense visions that I believe took me on a journey through my past. With the voices of the guides I gently was encouraged to look at the issues I had faced in my past, from unresolved traumas to bullies from my childhood and a broken heart. I also had a vision that I was told was a manifestation of my own spirit; a white she-wolf. My guides explained she was protecting me from what might hurt me.
It was as if I were being shown my life from a greater distance. The ceremony gave me clarity. At some points I even sobbed; deep, body racking sobs that I don't think I'd cried since I was a child. I also vomited heavily. As I did, I had a physical sense of relief; as if emotion that had been stuck deep inside me had been expelled.
After the ceremony ended I felt utterly exhausted, yet lighter and full of positivity. I was certain something fundamental had changed. I wasn't a different person, but I did feel like a more authentic version of myself.
Over the following weeks and months I noticed that my emotions were more easily accessible, I was more open and honest. Making friends and being vulnerable felt easier. I arrived in Australia on my working holiday visa in December of 2013 and after six months I decided to stay. I lived there for four years, something I am certain wouldn't have happened prior to the ayahuasca ceremony.
When I got to Australia, I decided—after some debate and to the surprise of my friends— to move to Sydney and not Melbourne. I had lots of friends in Melbourne, and it would have been easy to settle there and quickly create a comfortable life. However, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself and take the braver option of moving to Sydney, something I definitely wouldn't have done previously.
I also started considering my relationships and what was important. I realised I had people in my life that I was giving energy to who weren't returning it to me, or valuing me in the way I deserved. I had the courage to put some distance between us; emotional as well as physical. I realized I was worth more than what I had been accepting for myself, and my new choices reflected that shift within.
Explaining the ceremony its subsequent impact to my family went better than I had expected, considering I was essentially confessing to taking hallucinogens in a jungle. However, my family were all very supportive of my experience as well as fascinated, and have all commented on the changes they've seen in me since.
In the years since, I've continued to honour my bravery. I returned to the U.K. and, after a while, began to feel like I wasn't feeling happy or fulfilled, so I chose to leave my six-figure role to retrain as a coach.
It's easy to be sceptical about something like this. Drinking a hallucinogenic tea in Peru changed your life? Really? The truth is it did. It gave me the opportunity to understand what being brave meant to me. Ayahuasca isn't for everybody and I would certainly recommend researching the effects and side effects before you ever consider it. It wasn't a magic pill that suddenly changed everything, instead, I came away able to see myself more clearly. But for me, choosing to embrace the ceremony was the first step to a different life.
Lauren Paton is a coach and EFT practitioner and founder of Unleashed Coaching. She helps ambitious women reprogram impostor syndrome, resolve their confidence blocks and get the clarity they need to feel like they belong in every room they walk into.
All views expressed in this article are the author's own.
The brutal mirror
When I finally puked on the fourth night, I felt an odd sense of pride.
Inside the loud, stuffy ceremony room, people were laughing, crying, chanting, gyrating, and, yes, vomiting, around me. When my time finally comes, I think: Just aim for the bucket and keep your ass above your head like the shaman told you.
I try to wipe my face but can’t grab the tissue paper because it melts every time I reach for it. Nearby, a man starts to scream. I can’t make out what he’s saying on account of the shaman singing beautiful Colombian songs in the other room.
I finish vomiting and start crying and laughing and smiling all at once. Something has been lifted in this “purge,” something dark and deep I was carrying around for years. Relief washes over me, and I slowly make my way back to my mattress on the floor.
For four consecutive nights, a group of 78 of us here at a retreat center in Costa Rica have been drinking a foul-tasting, molasses-like tea containing ayahuasca, a plant concoction that contains the natural hallucinogen known as DMT.
We’re part of a wave of Westerners seeking out ayahuasca as a tool for psychological healing, personal growth, or expanding consciousness.
I flew to Costa Rica hoping to explode my ego. And I was not prepared for what happened. Ayahuasca turned my life upside down, dissolving the wall between my self and the world. I also stared into what I can only describe as the world’s most honest mirror. It was a Clockwork Orange-like horror show, and it was impossible to look away. But Isaw what I needed to see when I was ready to see it.
Ayahuasca exposes the gap between who you think you are and who you actually are. In my case, the gap was immense, and the pain of seeing it for the first time was practically unbearable.
An ayahuasca boom
Ayahuasca remains a fringe psychological medicine, but it’s slowly working its way into the mainstream. Until fairly recently, you had to travel to South America if you wanted to experiment with the plant, but now ayahuasca ceremonies are popping up in the United States and Europe.
Indigenous people in countries like Colombia and Peru have been brewing the concoction for thousands of years, mostly for religious or spiritual purposes. It’s considered a medicine, a way to heal internal wounds and reconnect with nature.
It wasn’t until 1908 that Western scientists acknowledged its existence; British botanist Richard Spruce was the first to study it and write about the “purging” it invokes. He was mainly interested in classifying the vines and leaves that made up the magic brew, and in understanding its role in Amazonian culture.
Ayahuasca emerged again in the early 1960s with the counterculture movement. Beat writers like William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouacall described their experiences with ayahuasca, most famously in Burroughs’s book The Yage Letters. Scientist-hippies like Terence McKenna and Timothy Leary then went to South America to research and experience the drug firsthand. All of this helped bring ayahuasca into Western culture, but it was never truly popularized.
Today, the tea is having a bit of a moment.
Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Sting, and Chelsea Handler have spoken about their experiences with it. “I had all these beautiful images of my childhood and me and my sister laughing on a kayak, and all these beautiful things with me and my sister,” Handler told the New York Post after her first ayahuasca trip. “It was very much about opening my mind to loving my sister, and not being so hard on her.”
Handler’s experience appears to be common. The scientific evidence on ayahuasca is limited, but it is known to activate repressed memories in ways that allow people to come to a new understanding of their past. In some cases, it helps people work through memories of traumatic events, which is why neuroscientists are beginning to study ayahuasca as a treatment for depression and PTSD. (There are physical and psychological risks to taking it as well — it can interfere with medication and exacerbate existing psychiatric conditions.)
What I was looking for
My interest in ayahuasca was specific: I wanted to cut through the illusion of selfhood. Psychedelics have a way of tearing down our emotional barriers. You feel plugged into something bigger than yourself, and — for a moment, at least — the sensation of separation melts away.
Buddhists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers have all made persuasive arguments that there is nothing like a “fixed self,” no thinker behind our thoughts, no doer behind our deeds. There is only consciousness and immediate experience; everything else is the result of the mind projecting into the past or the future.
But this is a difficult truth to grasp in everyday life. Because you’re conscious, because it’s like something to be you, it’s very easy to believe that a wall exists between your mind and the world. If you’re experiencing something, then there must be a “you” doing the experiencing. But the “you” in this case is just an abstraction; it’s in your mind, not out there in the world.
I spent about five years as a philosophy graduate student and another few as a teacher. I understood these arguments in intellectual terms but not in experiential terms. I’ve tried meditating, and I’m terrible at it. My mind is a parade of discordant thoughts, and as a result, I’m rarely present — in conversations, during meditation, in daily life.
One way to escape this trap, I hope, is to get the hell out of my head.
There are many ways to reach the truth of non-selfhood. Think of it as a mountain peak, with meditators and certain spiritual traditions ascending different sides. Psychedelic drugs offer a kind of shortcut; you get a glimpse of this higher truth without all those years of serious, disciplined practice.
That shortcut is what I was after.
Night 1: dread
The approach at this retreat center, called Rythmia, is all-encompassing. During the day they pamper you with all the luxuries of a wellness retreat — massages, volcanic mud baths, organic food, yoga classes, colonic cleanses. Then at night, you drink ayahuasca and put yourself through emotional and physical hell.
One of the first things I was told is that I had to enter the ayahuasca ceremony with a clear goal or question in mind: What do you want to learn about yourself?
The trained facilitators who led the ceremonies recommend that you begin with a simple request: Show me who I’ve become.
The question implies that at some point you lost yourself, that when you were a child, your soul was pure, open, uncorrupted by culture. As you enter society, you lose that childlike love for the world. You start to judge yourself by external standards. You compare yourself to friends, neighbors, and peers. You develop an ego, an identity, and your well-being becomes bound up with these constructs.
There’s nothing new about these ideas, but they strike me as true all the same. So I decide to focus on self-discovery.
It’s now 5:15 pm, and the first ceremony starts in 15 minutes. I’m terrified. “Do I really want to see what I’ve become?” I keep asking. I’m pretty sure I won’t like the answer — almost no one does, it seems.
The doors open, and all 78 of us here for this week-long session pour into the ceremony room, called the “flight deck.” The room is big, divided into three sections, and there are two bathrooms on each side. It’s dimly lit, and mattresses are lined up on the floor against the walls. The beds are only a few inches apart. At the foot of each mattress is a roll of toilet paper and a blue or red bucket.
I pounce on the first mattress I see; it’s near the door and just a few feet from the bathroom. I feel safe here. To my right is Chad, a photographer from Ontario who looks as nervous as I am but somehow seems more prepared for this. To my left is a giant window that opens to a view of the courtyard.
There’s a nervous collective energy. Almost everyone here is doing ayahuasca for the first time, and we’re all scared shitless. They announce the first call to drink, and I make my way to the front of the line. One by one, we take our cups, silently reflect on the intention for the evening, and then drink.
It’s my turn to drink. The stuff is nasty, like a cup of motor oil diluted with a splash of water. I throw it back like a shot of cheap bourbon.
We’re instructed to sit up and lean against the wall after the first cup. The tea takes at least 30 minutes to work its way through the body. I sit quietly for 45 minutes, maybe an hour, and then I lie down on my mattress and wait.
Nothing happens. I feel a little dizzy but nothing overwhelming. I go outside, walk around a bit, feel my feet in the grass. Then they announce a call for the second drink. I remember the mantra here: “Drink, don’t think.” If you can hear the call, if you can move your body, you drink. So I awkwardly drag myself out of bed and head to the front for a second cup.
About 30 minutes pass, and I start to feel ... strange. I can see colors, shapes, and shifting shadows on the wall. I’m nervous that something is about to happen, so I go outside and gather myself. I settle in one of the hammocks and stare at the stars.
Suddenly the stars start to spin in a clockwise direction. Then a little faster. Then, for reasons that escape me, I start yelling at the moon. So it goes, for what feels like an hour or two. I keep hurling those two questions at the heavens but get no answers, no insights, just silence and spinning.
I walk back inside and collapse in my bed. For the rest of the night, I see sporadic visions of geometric figures, a few flashes of light, but that’s about it. Then one of the assistants starts to ring a gentle bell.
It’s 2 am, and it’s time to close the ceremony.
Night 2: “Don’t fight the medicine”
The next day I realize why I had no great revelations on the first night. I couldn’t let go. I thought I was prepared for the trip, but anxiety got the better of me. As soon as I thought something — anything — was about to happen, I tried to think myself out of the experience.
Tonight will be different. I’m going to stay in the moment, stay with my breath, and see what happens.
The facilitator is Brad, a kind, aggressively tanned guy from Indianapolis who was trained in ayahuasca by a tribe in Peru. The facilitators play an important role each night, even though there isn’t much one-on-one interaction. They set the tone, guide the ceremony, explain where the medicine came from and how it works, and they assist the people who need it throughout the night.
Brad tells us to let go and give in. “Don’t fight the medicine,” he says. “Just listen.”
It’s cooler tonight, but there’s a warm breeze rolling through the room. Most of the people around me are scribbling last-minute notes in their journals; others are sitting stoically waiting for the first call.
I take my first drink around 7:30 pm, though I can’t know for sure because phones and electronics are shut down as soon as you enter the flight deck. My intention is the same as it was the first night: Show me who I’ve become.
I can tell quickly that this will be different. It’s 30 or 40 minutes after the first drink, and already my senses are overwhelmed. Every time I open my eyes, the space around me starts to fold, kind of like what Einstein describes in his theory of relativity. But it also looks like a tightly woven spider web, and when I move my hand it starts to bend.
Before I know it, they make the call for a second drink. “Don’t think, drink,” I keep telling myself. So I stumble to the front and drink another cup. Then things get weird.
I roll onto my right side and see Andrea, a woman from Toronto, struggling to vomit. Brad, the facilitator, had said the Peruvian and Columbian tribes that use ayahuasca see purging — vomiting, diarrhea, crying, laughing, and yawning — as a vital part of the healing the drug brings. When you purge, you’re expelling all the nastiness — the stress, the anxieties, the fears, the regrets, the hatred, the self-loathing.
All of a sudden,Andrea has 40 or 50 yellow snakes gushing out of her mouth and into mine. And then I’m immediately racked with the worst nausea I’ve ever experienced. First I curl up in the fetal position and then I spring onto all fours and try to puke. But I can’t get it out. I stay on my knees for another five or 10 minutes waiting for something to happen. Nothing.
Then I lie back down, roll onto my left shoulder, and am flooded with a resounding message for the rest of the night: It’s not about you! Andrea’s pain and suffering — the snakes — had passed into me, and that was the whole point.
For the rest of the night, maybe another three hours or so, I lie there thinking about how selfish I often am, and about the symbolism of the snakes. The feeling was so powerful that I started to cry. (Side note: people cry a lot on ayahuasca.)
The next day, Andrea tells me that she never managed to purge but that her nausea suddenly disappeared, after which she drifted into a peaceful half-sleep. I don’t know if that occurred around the time I saw those snakes, but the thought of it kept me up that night.
I’m not bothered by the thought of taking on her pain; it’s the whole wild scene — the snakes, the nausea, the visions. I can’t explain any of it and yet it was unshakably authentic.
Night 3: making love tomy wife for the first time — again
I’m halfway through this thing, and so far it’s not at all what I expected. I still haven’t had to confront my past in the way I anticipated I would.
The third ceremony is led by two women. The facilitator is Abby, a young, quietly authoritative woman from Cincinnati who’s assisted by Kat from Montana. Both trained in Peru.
Abby begins by telling us that tonight is about the feminine spirit. “It’s a celebration of creation,” she says, “of birth and renewal.” The idea is calming.
I strike up a conversation with the guy next to me. His name is Brad and he’s another Canadian, a publisher from Toronto. This is his second trip to Rythmia, and he tells me that he plans to sell his business after this. “My whole identity is tied up in that,” he says, and “I don’t want that anymore.”
Before I can respond, there’s the first call to drink. The brew is thicker tonight, and it tastes like wax and vinegar. It hits hard and fast. I am hallucinating within 20 or 30 minutes.
I see myselffloating in my mother’s womb,suspended in fluids and flesh. And then I see her life — it’s not quite like a movie; it’s more like a series of flashing visions that are just clear enough to resonate. I see her pain, her confusion. I see how hard it was for her to have me at 20 years old, and how little I’d thought about that.
I see her and my father, in a college apartment, wondering what the hell they’re going to do next. I realize how fucking terrified I would have been in that spot at that age. A wave of compassion washes over me; whatever resentments I was holding on to drop away.
Then the call for a second drink comes. I drink, walk outside, and then go right back to bed.
The scene shifts and I’m floating in what I assume is a kind of primordial soup. I think I’m a vibrating particle now, and string theory suddenly makes sense in a way I could never explain (I suck at math).
Abby starts to sing songs called icaros, which are performed in ayahuasca ceremonies throughout the Amazon. I sink deeper into a trance. My mind is speeding, and my body is frozen stiff. But a calm takes over me, and I start to smile and laugh.
I roll back onto my right side, and suddenly I see my wife’s face. I relive the first time we made love. We’re in college near a lake on campus. I can see our bikes behind us, the water in front of us, the blanket beneath us, and the grass all around us. I can smell the air. I relive this moment, understanding finally what made it so special.
There was no ego. I wasn’t an isolated “I,” a separate person with a separate consciousness. The feeling, I imagine, isn’t much different from what advanced meditators experience when their sense of self disappears. You simply have no awareness of anything but your body and the moment.
But then the vision turns dark.
I start to see every moment of our relationship in which she reached out to me and I missed it. I see her asking me to go to a meditation class, and I decline. I see her pause to ask me to connect at the peak of a mountain after a long hike in Boulder, Colorado, and I shrug it off. I see her ask me to go dancing at a show near our apartment, and I watch myself mindlessly decline.
I see myself stuck in my own head, my own thoughts, my own impulses. And I see the disappointment on her face. I see her see me miss an opportunity to reconnect.
Then I relive all those moments again, and this time I see myself do or say what I should have done or said. And I see the joy on her face. I see it so clearly that it hurts. I see how much time I wasted, how much love I withheld.
I’m crying again, this time even louder, and the smile on my face is so big that my jaw hurt the next day. And I think about how I’m going to look at my wife when I get back home, and how she’ll know I’m seeing her — really seeing her — for the first time all over again.
Then the bells start to ring, and it’s time to close the ceremony.
Night 4: the most honest mirror you’ll ever see
I knew the fourth night would be rough when I saw the ayahuasca brew (each night it’s a slightly different recipe from a different tribe or region or tradition). It was so thick and oily that you couldn’t drink it. Instead, you had to force it down like paste.
The shaman, an Israeli man named Mitra, tells us that it was a 5,000-year-old recipe taken from one of the oldest Amazonian tribes in Colombia, where Mitra was trained. He’s tall, with a shaved head and an assured demeanor. He looks like he could demystify the cosmos and dunk a basketball at the same time.
This final ceremony is longer than the rest. Normally, we gather around 5:30 pm and finish by 1 or 2 am. This time we meet around 7:30 pm and don’t finish until sunrise the next day.
Mitra hands me my first cup, and I fall back to my mattress. I think it’s maybe half an hour before I slip into what I can only describe as the most vivid lucid dream.
I watch my entire life unfold as though it were projected on a movie screen. But it wasn’t my whole life; it was every lie, every counterfeit pose, every missed opportunity to say or do something true, every false act and ingratiating gesture, every pathetic attempt to be seen in a certain light.
The highlight reel is way longer than I imagined.
I see myself as a child groveling for attention from the “popular kids.” I see my 12-year-old self throwing a tantrum in the mall because my dad wouldn’t buy me the Nautica shirt that all those popular kids were wearing. I see myself in high school pretending to be something I was not, and I see all the doubts piling up inside me. I see all the times I self-censored purely out of fear of judgment.
I see myself building my identity based on what I thought would impress other people. On it went — one trivial act after another building up an edifice of falsehood.
I should note how unpleasant it is to see yourself from outside yourself. Most of us aren’t honest with ourselves about who we are and why we do what we do. To see it so clearly for the first time is painful.
The movie rages on into college and adult life, with my self-consciousness expanding. I see myself not looking into the eyes of the person I’m talking to because I’m playing out all the ways they might be judging me. I see myself pretending like my hair wasn’t thinning years ago and all the times I tried to hide it. And every time, the reason for posing was the same: I cared too much about what other people thought.
The experience made me aware of how often we all do this. We do it at home, at work, at the grocery store, at the gym. Most interactions are either transactional or performative. No one wants to make eye contact, and most of the time people freak out if you really try. We’re too self-conscious to listen. We’re thinking about what we’ll say next or how we’re being perceived.
All the posturing destroys any chance for a genuine connection.
The movie ends, and I’m exhausted. The meaning of the previous two nights is clearer now. I needed to feel small and connected before I could appreciate the absurdity of self-involvement. I had to relive those fleeting moments of union to see what made them so transcendent. And I had to go straight through my shame and regret to get beyond it.
When the ceremony finally ended, I sat up in my bed and starting scribbling notes to myself. Before I could finish, Mitra walked up to me and asked how I was doing. I tried to explain what happened, but I couldn’t.
He just kneeled, put his hand on my head, and said, “Happy birthday.”
The day after
I leave the retreat center around 11 am on Saturday to board a shuttle to the airport. With me are three people from my group.
One of them is Alex, a garrulous guy from London. I think he’s in his mid-30s, though I can’t recall. He’s got this dazed look on this face, like he just saw God. His eyes are on fire with excitement, and he’s already planning his next visit.
“When are you coming back?” he asks me. “I don’t know,” I say. He doesn’t quite believe me. Everyone, he assumes, is coming back, either here or to some other place like this. I’m still processing what happened; the thought of the next “trip” hasn’t even occurred to me yet.
We reach the airport, say our goodbyes, and then part ways. I’m standing in line waiting to go through customs, and I’m surprised at how relaxed I am. The line is long and slow, and everyone around me is annoyed. But I’m moving along, passport in hand, smiling for no particular reason.
Typically, I am one inconvenience removed from rage. Today is different, though. When a loud man rolls his heavy suitcase over my open toe, I shrug it off. Brief encounters with strangers like that are pleasant; the awkwardness is gone.
I’m not in my head, and so things aren’t happening to me; they’re just happening. It’s probably too much to say that my ego was gone — I don’t think it works like that. But seeing myself from a different perspective offered a chance to reassert control over it.
People say that a single ayahuasca trip is like a decade of therapy packed into a night. That’s probably an overstatement, but it’s not altogether wrong. In four nights, I feel like I let go of a lifetime’s worth of anger and bitterness.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been home three weeks. The ecstasy I felt in the days immediately after the trip has worn off as I’ve slipped back into my regular life. A tension has emerged that I still don’t quite understand.
I’m happier and less irritable than I was when I left. The tedium of everyday life feels less oppressive. Part of the reason is that I’m less anxious, less solipsistic. I really do find it easier to see what’s in front of me.
But there’s something gnawing at me. I want to go back to Costa Rica, and not for the reasons you might expect. Forget about the ayahuasca, forget about the tropical vistas, forget about all that. This experience was possible because a group of people came together with a shared intention. That creates an emotional intensity that’s hard to find elsewhere. Every person looks right at you, and you look right back.
But real life isn’t like that. I ride the Metro to work every day, and lately I’ve tried talking to random people. It’s a lot harder than you think.
A man sat across from me the other day wearing a Tulane hat (from the university in New Orleans). I used to live in the area, so I looked at him until he looked back, assuming I’d strike up a conversation. But once we locked eyes, I could sense his agitation and we both turned our heads. Nothing weird or hostile — just clumsy.
I’ve spent years making an heroic effort to avoid awkward exchanges, so I get it. But I’m honestly worried that in a few weeks or months, I’ll be that guy again. And in retrospect, this whole journey will feel like a brief holiday of awareness.
I asked my wife the other day if I seem different to her after the trip. She said that she always felt like she had to force me to offer my attention, especially in those quiet, simple moments, and that now I give it freely. I do find it easier to listen since I returned, and it’s amazing what a difference that can make.
I keep thinking about this idea that a night of ayahuasca is like a decade of therapy. Do you pay a price for taking this kind of shortcut? Are the effects short-lived? Maybe.
I know it’s hard to be in the world without being of the world. And the world is a lonely place full of lonely people. You can’t change that, but you can change your orientation to it. In my case, psychedelics made that a little easier.
And what of the self and the ego? I believed these things to be illusions before I took ayahuasca, and now I’m certain that they are. But what does that actually mean in day-to-day life? Not as much as it should. The ego might be a fiction or a construct or whatever you want to call it, but the sensation of it is near impossible to shake.
Even after taking what is arguably the most powerful ego-dissolving medicine on the planet, I still live in a world that reinforces the story of me all the time. There’s no easy way around all that.
I don’t know what life will be like in six months or a year, but I think ayahuasca was the greatest thing that has happened to my marriage. It wasn’t about becoming a better person; it was about appreciating the role my wife — and other relationships — play in my life. I had to escape my head to see that.
Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’d say ayahuasca is the best and worst thing I’ve ever done. I spent a week staring down all my bullshit and all my insecurities and it was totally liberating. But it was also terrifying and not something I want — or need — to see again.
A question worth asking: If you looked into the world’s most honest mirror, what would you see?
Editor’s note: this story was originally published on February 19, 2018.
Editor: Eliza Barclay
Photos: Kainaz Amaria
Photoillustrations: Javier Zarracina
Copy editor: Tim Ryan Williams
This tea contains stems ofthe ayahuasca plant, and leaves from another plant that naturally contain N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (aka "DMT"), according to the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council, a nonprofit aimed at sustainable and safe use of traditional medicinal plants. When sipped during an ayahuasca ceremony, ayahuasca can lead to hallucinations, often involving death, family, and relationships. In fact, the word "ayahuasca" means "vine of the death" in Quechuan languages. People may participate in ayahuasca ceremonies several times over the course of a week, month, or other period of time.
Historically, ayahuasca ceremonies were performed by skilled medicine workers called shamans, and were believed to cure ailments and heal people's spiritual problems. Although an ayahuasca ceremony isn't necessarily religious in nature, most people report coming to terms with their own spirituality during a trip. These days, people seek out ayahuasca because they hear that the effects can be deeply profound.
In truth, it may take a while for the benefits of ayahuasca to be broadly accepted. Technically, ayahuasca is illegal in the United States, because DMT is classified as a Schedule I drug. But on Reddit, many people share the experiences they've had with the medicinal tea and the trips that accompany it. Read on to learn how some say it's changed their lives.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal or harmful activity, and would like to remind its readers that DMT is a Schedule I drug and illegal in the United States.
My Ayahuasca Experience - The Worst Night of My Life
Last updated on October 7, 2020 - My Free Marketing newsletter 👀
Disclaimer: Ayahuasca is illegal in America. People have died from using it. I am not a doctor nor was I ever able to do well in Chemistry class and this article is NOT an endorsement to do any illegal drug. Please do your own research and be safe in whatever choices you make.
WTF is going on. I have completely lost myself trapped inside some sick fucking video game. Everything was pixelated, I didn’t know who I was and couldn’t see farther than an inch in front of myself.
Hunching over I was exhausted, wanted it all to end and was waiting for someone to come help me. No one was coming. I was alone. All I could do was help myself. That was the point.
Fast forward a few hours in the night I was crying uncontrollably realizing I don’t love myself.
Ayahuasca completely changed my life.
There’s moments in the subsequent days I’m not sure it actually happened, was it all a dream and what the hell just happened.
What is Ayahuasca? Why is it getting more popular? Why did I do it? What’s the experience really like? How can you explain the unexplainable?
I first heard about a bunch of white people going to Peru and doing Aya as we’ll now refer to her (it’s feminine most people call it) about 5 years ago. It just seemed really far to go and do drugs when I can conveniently do them at a home.
What you’ve probably heard is that you take a drug, sit in some tent and then proceed to puke and have a horrible night for the next few hours. This did NOT sound like something appealing.
But 6 months ago a closer friend and me were having lunch and he seemed like a changed man. Happier, almost glowing. He said it was 100% from this Ayahuasca experience he just had recently.
He didn’t really say what happened at the ceremony for himself but he realized that his true calling was to work on a book, visions he needed to spend more time with his parents and continue working on his female relationships.
This is coming from a guy who has been in a low place for the past 3 years. He said it was all from Ayahuasca.
It definitely caught my attention and as this year has progressed it has not felt right. Something’s been off for myself. My work, my relationship with my girlfriend and just my lens of the world. I’ve thought a lot about dying and how there’s nothing left in the world I wanted to do. I hadn’t thought about the future to any extent in a long long time. I wanted it to get better.
I signed up for the next Ayahuasca ceremony. Little did I know what I signed up for.
Ahead of the event I thought about what kind of outcome I was hoping for.
For me it was clarity on the future: my life, my relationship and work.
Ha, no big deal there. Sounds like pretty easy questions to solve.
For the next 3 months I forgot about it. The month leading up to it I started to read more articles likethis one and then started talking with others about it.
Whatever you imagine about taking and experience Ayahuasca it’s nothing like you can even fathom. I totally took it lightly. A few people started saying we should do calls about it.
One guy who I always see as a total bad-ass was telling me over a breakfast burrito how it made him realize he needed to be more sensitive in general and be there more for his friends. Nothing I’d EVER expect from him in the 5 years of our friendship.
Another very busy friend who normally spends 15 minutes at most with me spent 1.5 hours and multiple conversations preparing me for the experience.
Mind you, these are not hippy dippy people. These are super successful people who are always looking for self-improvement. Something weird is going on.
Why do these guys care so much? I didn’t really get it.
To prepare there were 3 things they told me:
- What to bring
- How to get the most out of it
- Setting your intentions for the experience
What to bring:
- Hot n cold
- Blankets. Pillows
- Eye mask
How to get most out of it:
1- In and through
No matter go into what you are fearing or experience. Don’t run or fight it. It’s there to teach you something.
2- What can I learn from this?
Whether you have a amazing or negative experience it is there to teach you something.
3- Learn how to relax no matter what. Breathe through
It gets intense. Very intense as you can tell from the beginning of my story. Breathe. Just breathe. It’ll bring you back to self and the moment. Remember you are human.
4- You’ll get what you need not what you want.
I heard this multiple times. I thought I got it but didn’t really understand this till later.
Loved this sign. Thought about it a lot during my experience.
Setting your intentions for the experience. What do you really want to get out the event?
1- Are you trying to deal with PTSD? Sexual Molestation?
2- Do you want to understand love or consciousness.
3- Like myself, do you want clarity on the future?
There’s no wrong answers.
Before I even get into actually arriving I want to clarify 2 things you are questioning:
1- The Shaman must be a total hippy who grew up in a commune. Wrong
Now when you think Shaman I think Indian guy who’s got long hair, baggy + dirty clothes, smokes a ton of weed and only talks about the chakras. That was the opposite of the “Shaman” that I had for my experience.
Zach Poitra was a former investment banker making a lot of money who after trying Ayahuasca in 2009 quit everything, moved to Peru and started studying the medicine. It changed his life and he wanted to help make those changes for others.
2- The Shamans are drug addicts and it’s a weekend of partying for everyone. False
It is medicine. What is medicine? It is something that makes you better and I 100% believe Aya does that for people.
If you want to party this is NOT the drug you should ever take. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. There’s a ton of puking. There’s a lot of crying. There’s many challenging times and without proper supervision I would highly discourage anyone from doing it.
My girlfriend was going to join but in talking with Shaman (you have to do a pre-retreat call) it became abundantly clear the experience was for me, not her. She backed out.
We argued a good amount and I frankly left to figure out our future which now I realize was scary AF for her.
The week leading up to the retreat you are not supposed to eat red meat, pork, alcohol, no caffeine, no cheese and no sex.
The day before they encourage you to do a floatation tank or a massage. In my normal manner I scheduled back to back meetings, calls and fortunately got 1 massage in. I was not going in relaxed =/
This experience better be great, giving up all the things I love. But the day of the event I realized after giving all those things up for a week how amazing my body was feeling. Already I was getting something out of this, treat my body right and I’ll feel better.
The time had come, my bags were packed and it was time to head to the retreat.
En route to the retreat I was using the Headspace meditation app and trying to relax. I had no idea what to really expect. Frankly, I think I took it way too lightly. I imagined the experience would be closest to an acid trip with some friends in a big ass room. I was TOTALLY WRONG. It’s like thinking diet coke tastes the same as coke, it doesn’t!
With the friends that I went with a few interesting things came up as we arrived to our retreat.
1- Everyone had different intentions. I wanted future while another guy asked about consciousness, another didn’t have any intention while another dude wanted to get a girlfriend.
2- “Lose his edge.” One guy said his brother would never do it cause he didn’t want to lose his edge. This stuck with me. Shit, I want to be aggressive, look whats it gotten me so far in life. I don’t want to go all soft either from this.
3- I was nervous. There were times a week before I was uncertain about what would happen. This gave me confidence I was doing the right thing. A lot of growth I’ve realized doesn’t come from doing the same thing over. It comes from doing something new or beyond what we’ve usually done. The nervousness was a compass saying there’s something challenging I was afraid that would likely help me grow as a person.
If you prefer listening:
Listen on Apple Podcasts - Listen on Overcast - Download mp3
Day 1 - “How do you explain the unexplained?”
The ceremony started at 8pm.
You walk into this room and there are mats on the ground, black buckets in front of them and a roll of toilet paper. Everything will be used during the ceremony.
The room started filling up and I didn’t know what to expect.
Now I am not a woo woo person so some things right away set off my “new age” shit detector.
- They call it a ceremony. To me a ceremony is like graduating high school or the academy award.
- There’s a ton of rocks for helping keep away evil energy.
- There’s chairs covered in animal fur and a lot of instruments surrounding the “stage” or main area that the Shaman and his assistants sit.
It takes about an hour before we take the medicine. I was calling it a drug still at this point.
We get an orientation about the night…
You can’t touch anyone else.
Please don’t sing, only the shamans sing.
Refrain from leaving the room except for using the restroom.
Stay on your mat.
Most people were comfortable sweatpants and a shirt. On your mat you most likely have a blanket and a pillow. On the side you put your sweater and headlamp if you ever need to find anything.
One of the assistants burns sage and walks it around the room. (Okay, this is getting weird.)
Then the next 30 minutes we do breathing exercises. Breathe in through your lower (some weird word) and out through your head chakra or something.
Finally they say you’ll come to the front, put the ayahuasca that’s in a shot glass to your chest, set your intention, drink it and go sit back down. Score, it’s drug using time. I can’t wait (or so I thought).
Before they give people their shots the shaman sing prayers into the black sludge that is ayahuasca. The songs are in some weird spanish sounding language and are quite pleasant. Then they take sips of some bottle and blow into the bottle to get out of the evil spirits. The blowing sounds like WHISH. Which. Okay, weird AF but I’m here with my friends and open minded.
I go to the front and my intention was to help figure out the future. You put the black cup to your heart while you say your intention. Then you throw back the shot. It tastes like burnt raisins. I enjoyed it.
Then I go lay down on my mat.
They start a mantra that goes like:
I am happy.
I am healthy.
I am free from suffering.
I am free from mental anxiety.
I am safe.
Let me pass through this world with ease.
We repeat that 5 times and after 3 minutes nothing much is happening.
They start singing at the front which I didn’t expect.
They turn off all the lights, pitch black. Right away I start hearing some puking and a few tears. I’m not feeling shit. Maybe they have a weak dose.
I am twiddling my feet to their music and thinking a few things.
Echad. Another person there said this to me. Just think about one. God. Yourself. So I am repeating that word.
I’m also saying “in and through,” breathe.
“What can I learn from this.”
They ask everyone either to sit and face the center of the room or lay down facing the center of the room. I’m laying on my back looking at the ceiling and to the door. I-kept-looking-at-the-door.
The music is playing and it’s Native American sounding music you’d imagine at a ceremony.
…Then all of a sudden I started getting extremely warm. My hands were on my heart and I kept tapping my finger to help pace my chest. It was racing, I was overheating. What’s happening?
I threw away all the blankets and pads I was using. I ripped my shirt off. It was just me, the mat and pillow. It was HOT.
Tried to breathe but the heat was getting a bit much and I called out for help. One of the assistants came over right away. Mind you that THEY also take the medicine at the same time. I assumed so that they could be safe they wouldn’t be doing the “drug” so they could safely help all ~20 people who were doing ayahuasca in the room.
He came over and I got on all fours. I’m like, it’s hot. Dude I am overheating. I need to get some air. He tried to fan me with his fan made of bird feathers. It wasn’t working so I got up and made a b-line for the door.
Outside felt better but my head was lost. What the FUCK is this feeling? I can’t breathe. I paced around the gravel outside. Whew. Breathe. In and through. I kept repeating but it wasn’t helping.
An assistant found me outside cause my headlamp was on and said it was safer for me to go back inside. I remember apologizing a lot and that I just needed to cool down a lot. Things were starting to get pixelated. He said it’s better to be inside.
Reluctantly I walked extremely slowly back inside the room to my mat. My head and heart was racing. Fuck I am going to die.
My thoughts turned to anger to my friends who said this was a good experience. FUCK YOU GUYS I’m screaming inside. You are partially conscious but partially not sure what the heck is happening.
If you get in a bad space you can call out for help. I did it again and they come over to do a ventiada. Yes more hippy sounding words but it means they come over and breathe on to your head, say a prayer and try to take away the evil spirits.
The assistant started this and I said get the fuck off me and ran back outside. It was too much.
I turned my light off outside and was so angry. I WILL NEVER do this again. I have to get out of here. I am out of my mind. Someone I know lives close by, it’s safer there and I have to make it there. He will help me if I get there. These ceremony people are the devil and their faces looked very scary when he tried to help me.
I paced around and made it to the main gravel road. Shirtless and shoeless I felt like a beast. I started running.
Running. Running. Running.
The trees looked like I was in one of those first person shooter games. All pixelated and confusing. My headlamp looked like a vector and hardly any light was coming out. I ran and ran.
On my right I came across the gates of Holocaust. I couldn’t tell who I was. I ran and never saw the road I needed. FUCK.
So I started running back to where the retreat was. but NO.. I wouldn’t be stopped so I tried running again away from the retreat to get to safety….
Running and running and running.
Finally I hunched over. I was exhausted. I wanted to cry. I wanted it to end.
I wasn’t in my own head or body. I didn’t even exist. I know it doesn’t make sense but all I had was my vision. I remember my legs, they were covered in dirt but the rest of my mind was somewhere else.
I wanted someone to save me. No one came. No one was coming. I had to help myself.
I was waving my light everywhere hoping someone would see me. We were in the middle of nowhere.
I did think what if a cop or someone picked me up. DUI or something. I was completely belligerent. How insane would this be?
Reluctantly I had some conscious to head back to the retreat and try to cool down in my cabin. There was A/C!
I swear I saw lights on my way back but there weren’t any.
FORTUNATELY I found the familiar driveway and made my way to my cabin.
While walking back I remember feeling like my father. Raged. Uncaged and wild. There was a house and I knew someone was home so I walked to the door but was smart enough to know it would be bad to get their help…. So I kept stumbling around the retreat.
I found the first bed bunk and crashed. My head was racing, pounding, my heart and chest pounding. Hot. Racing. What is going on? I want it to STOP. End. Please have this end.
I remember thinking I haven’t been this fucked up in a long time, maybe ever.
Laying down made me feel worse so I paced my room and then walked outside and flashed my light. I didn’t want to detract from everyone else experience in the group and hopefully someone could see me so they wouldn’t worry.
Someone came into the room, he identified himself. I didn’t really have any body functions but let him know it was me.
Shortly after the main shaman walked in the room. He said, you’re pretty fucked up huh. Yea. I just need to calm down I said.
He said let’s go take cold shower. He helped me up and walked me to the outdoor shower.
Immediately I removed my clothes in front of him. His first response was, “oh god” and chuckled. I thought to myself how this is first time I’ve been comfortable and fuck it getting naked in front of someone else. Yay, I’m learning things but I’m still OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND. The cold shower helps a bit and I walk naked to the room.
He helps me get on the bed and lays me on the bed. He had a red light to help him see and I kept thinking he was the fucking devil. His face was looking old and not like I remember. He put my head on a pillow and started wishing to suck out the evil spirits on my head. Then he rubbed my head to get me to a good space. I wasn’t having it. Stop Zach. Stop. I just need to cool down. I’m tripping too hard.
He waited a bit and said ok…. not in a mean or mad way but then he said he has to go back to the ceremony. I was fine with it while I tried to regain who the fuck I was.
After an hour or so. You lose complete track of time I cooled down. I was in my boxers looking at the top of the bunk bed.
Wtf is this experience.
Not sure what calling happened but I was calmed down and knew I had to go back to the room.
Felt ashamed to go back and didn’t want to detract from anyone else’s experience. You couldn’t say bless you for sneezes or anything. Only could deal with yourself. I was scared. I was ashamed. I didn’t want to do it but I was more conscious and felt safe. Earlier I wanted to be as far away from the room as possible. Saying I will NEVER do this again. It made me think about my Tony Robbins experience where I left after a few hours. Here I was doing it again….
On the way back to the ceremony room I heard a woman singing. It was perfect and safe. It drew me back and I walked into the room and down on my mat.
Whew…Whew….Whew. Breathing. Calm down..
Tapping on my finger Echad (means one in Hebrew). It’s okay.
Immediately sighed, thinking THANK GOD my girlfriend didn’t do this. I protected her from doing it.
This is when things got fucking hard.
The music in the room was gorgeous. Instruments and sounds from a woman….
My mind started racing with everything going on and I literally don’t know where the thoughts came from but they did….
I miss my dad. Wondered if it was like him tonight. An uncaged animal. Running.
This came to me right away. And then I sat up.
I cried, lightly. Then the fucking hard. A lot.
It was just like him, wreaking havoc on others. It made me realize that how I was so difficult and wild earlier tonight was how others in my life must feel interacting with me. They just tried to help, that’s all them, the shamans, my co-workers and girlfriend are doing and I can be so tiring for them.
I blow up a lot of things. Make it tiring for others. Need to focus on building together instead of destroying.
The music picks up and starts getting more intense while you are in there. It’s like it knows what you need.
My thoughts then raced to just being loved. And how the whole experience was just myself. No one else. I have to face it myself. Make my own decisions. Help myself. Go help yourself.
Then I thought more of my dad and how he’s not here to love me so I have to love myself. And I am not loving myself. I am running away from things.
Running from here. Running from Austin to Los Angeles. Running from one work project to the next. I was avoiding of dealing with myself.
And doing all these things to just distract myself from having to deal with myself.
Past years or months I’m not facing me. Looking everywhere but myself. I had all I ever needed. Started with all the mats and blankets and needing my place somewhere. Then I got rid of them. It was only me on the mat. Anyplace is fine and I have more than enough. Don’t have to keep running.
That’s what it was. Just loving me for me.
Felt like I was crying as a kid all over again. In fetal position on my side like I did as a kid. Crying for his love. His attention. Realized I still miss him and want that validation. Don’t want him to be gone. Wondered when am I a man. Love myself.
My dad passed and I was scared of other things leaving so I pushed them away.
I imagined my girlfriend and how she’s been so strong and her reaching out for me. Wanting me. I’m pushing her away. Sabotaging it.
[Kept saying “Echad.” Left hand on heart. Right hand above. Tap the finger once. Echad. One.]
I wanted Ly to take care of me at that moment. So badly. I knew she would. Then I was scared she wouldn’t love me for me. Or she wouldn’t take care of me. Like when I told her the massage girl tried to touch my penis. She got upset with me. I cried now cause I just wanted her to accept me for me.
And now realizing the experience was always for me. Not her. She’s been clear. Reflected how I’ve felt so dull and temporary for such a long time.
Like her parents leaving Vietnam and she’s in distant new place and this guy who’s not taking care of her. At all. She just wants me present. Just hanging out. I fantasize about laying on a beach, talking, doing nothing. I missed our mushy nights and imagined banging her from behind. How we haven’t been connected and it’s me being so callous for so long. I admired her strength and felt so sorry. I cried. We live next to a beach and I reflected how recently I walk along it in a cloud. Not appreciating how amazing and great life is.
And I behave like my dad. Giving gifts instead of giving the time I wanted. And she’s just asking for it….
Love Ly beyond what I can imagine. Have to share with her myself, the history of my dad, my fears, give her words of affirmation and quality attention. Consistently. Make time for us to enjoy each other’s company without distraction.
Made me realize you need help of others at times. It’s a good thing. They are strong and can help you. Like Adam Gilbert who’s blanket I was now using to cover myself.
I was excited for future. For our Austin house. Thought of it.
Didn’t think of mom or brother. Which was strange to me...
Then thought of Norm (step-dad) and how I resented him for taking my dads place. Which I didn’t even realize was a block and he’s always been there for me. He’s now taking the physical place of my dad. In a good way. I will change it. He’ll be called dad.
You have to realize you are unsure how the medicine and the music and the experience are triggering these thoughts. I can’t explain it. I was just bent over crying, sniffling, using all my tissues while thinking about all these things.
Grabbed for flash light but realized I had everything I need. Just me. I have everything I need. I’ve had it all along and I’m looking outside vs appreciating all the greatness I already have. Stop trying to distract and avoid dealing with myself. Loving myself.
So hard to face yourself. To cry openly. To acknowledge. Is it dulling? Maybe. Is it a realistic vision of yourself? Hell yes.
With loving myself it doesn’t matter where I live. It matters I’m with someone who won’t leave me and appreciate me for me.
Thought about with my podcast, where I come across as needy since I need them cause I’m not happy with me. Instead of loving myself and coming from that place when working with people to be on it.
Looking around the room I felt sad and gave love for everyone else hoping they get what they want and the journey they are facing. Cried again. Everyone’s going through things. We ignore that.
I judge so much. Every person before it started I had assumptions about. It does Nothing for me. More it’s I’m insecure with myself.
It’s so much clearer and not at the same time. Came into this way too light. Kicked my ass. Fuck 2 more days I thought to myself. :O
Lately, I want it fast and over. No appreciation for longer deeper relationships. Work. Skills. Mastery.
I did recall during thinking fucking white people. All on the floor in some random building, doing drugs and using this as new age shit to help themselves. And how my friend Neville would be teasing me about this : )
Reflected on how the whole time I kept looking at the door and for my escape plan. Looking to get out. Didn’t deal w the challenge. Whish
The lights gently fade on and the first nights ceremony begins its closing procedure. Holy shit, that was just night 1?!?
To close the ceremony everyone comes to the front mesa (“alter”) and the Shamans do a Ventiada on you. They then sing to you and then come to you and breathe on your head and do arm waving with sounds. I know I know. It sounds weird as fuck. They do the whishing sound here too. But at that moment I felt the prayers and strength and pride for me facing my fear and having courage. Funny cause I pushed this away at the beginning of the night.
Then after it was all over — Zach (shaman) came over and hugged me. I cried in his embrace.
Opened Topo Chico’s for people. Remember rubbing the Topo Chico on my head and cheeks, never had that ice coldness felt so refreshing. I was having trouble opening the bottles...Then used other side of bottle opener, stupid life lesson since one side didn’t work. There’s a way.
Room reminded me kindergarten where no judgment or status and how much opportunities there are for growth. Put the ice cold bottle down. Wasn’t really hungry like others. Drank. Felt hydrating.
The Shaman commented on the cords of my shorts. Made me think there’s always more to life and the experience. What a night. Fucking cords (my sweat shorts had cords). Is everything a lesson?
What was interesting was the Shaman’s reaction. It wasn’t mad. He said he’s seen way worse and he’s there to help me on my journey. Not judge it. I appreciated that.
Felt like I shed the pain and cloudiness of weeks in one night. Can’t run from the issues.
After we left, went over to make sure Billy is ok. Hard not to help others, especially during the experience. You are forced to help yourself first. Found his cabin. Debated checking since he was having his own reflection time. I don’t empathize enough. I haven’t cried like this since elementary school. I just knocked to make sure he’s ok. He was and said thanks.
Note to self: I need to get way better at buying snacks for myself!!! Go to the store. Not always better delivery. Stop being so fucking cheap.
Then I brushed my teeth and pushups. Some things don’t change. Same nightly activity for 15 years.
When I was outside I was so adamant about never doing this again. I’m scared to fucking do it tonight again. I was ready to leave but I stayed and faced it. Had to do it in my own way.
I’ll do it later tonight. Much much smaller dose.
If I had to summarize the night in one word: Self-Love
Toilet paper ready for the first night. By night 3, it was all gone.
Day 2 - Scared
Intention: Be safe.
I was so traumatized from the night before I planned on going super light tonight.
This night wasn’t as eventful and I needed that.
For context of what you do during the day it’s not much. The ceremony goes from 8pm-4am or so. You talk for an hour then wake up around 10am for breakfast, do a group circle to discuss what you experienced from 11-2pm, then lunch then you nap / rest / journal until the next ceremony.
One thing I liked is reducing judgment or opinions on everyone’s experiences. When we hear people tell us things we immediately respond with advice on what they are saying. Or if someone is fat or driving an Uber or whatever, we immediately assume a bunch of shit about them. Okay, you’re perfect. I’m speaking for myself. It was a nice time of reflection NOT to do that at all. Not saying I’ll never judge again but I’m more aware of it and that’s all a reflection on myself.
The Shaman is very “real.” He does have spiritual songs, uses special liquid to remove negative energies and has certain protecting rocks. But the guy is also very human about the experience. One lady was telling her story and he used jokes about Def Leppard and pour some sugar on me. It made me listen more to his suggestions. He’s done these ceremonies over 1500 times. That means he’s been tripping balls for over 5 years. He even said if you want to have fun, go take acid and go to a park. This is not for the faint of heart. Very real.
Random notes before the 2nd ceremony started:
- Embracing the pain is good. Don’t fight it or run away from it. Go in and through it. Best way to deal and solve it.
- Judgment is your own insecurity. Self-explanatory.
- You have everything you need. Run into yourself.
- Read Book: After ecstasy do the laundry
Of things I’ve LOVED this year Bo Jackson’sBoBikesBama.com andSumoRide.com are the main things. Do more of them next year. Maybe in low income areas of people + places I want to help:
Mac Miller World Tour
- Pittsburgh (Mac + Wiz)
- Chicago (Chance)
- Akron (Lebron)
- Austin (Lance / Noah)
- Los Angeles (Kendrick Lamar)
- Detroit (Mike Posner / Big Sean)
I was VERY scared going into night 2. I did not want a repeat of the night before. Many times the shaman’s said if you feel like you are dying during the ceremony, then die. Yea, I basically went beyond dying last night and am good for a decaf version of tonight.
So Night 2 begins…
I took 2 — 1/4 shots. Less than 1/2 what I took the night before.
Tonight was VERY different. It was relaxed. I didn’t lose myself at all. Was scared to go where I went the night before.
Didn’t really have any BREAKTHROUGHS but had some flashes.
Really enjoyed listening to the women sing tonight. They all take turns and sometimes they do it in unison.
Hippies always talk about feminine energy…But it was nice tonight, like mother earth. There were a few moments I felt like was in the earth (note we are in 1-inch padded mat so you kind of are) or I was floating.
I didn’t lose my mind and mostly was reflecting on everything going on.
A few notes were how much I appreciated the clean eating and being healthy. How the past week my body has really appreciated it. No coffee, etc.. Makes me feel better. More energy. Less fussy. For future less alcohol, more fruit, less beef.
Judgment is hard to spell (is there an e or not?) and hard not to do but good to work on it.
One vision I had was this machine or dark area and I was putting my ex’s in boxes in their places. Not like I ignored them but thank them for the chapters in my life and opening me for this next chapter.
Being on the floor I thought of my nephew cause kids are on the floor and giving him more attention.
Reflected on giving my girlfriend more love so she feels safe. What women say or are angry about is generally never what they are really mad about. Have to really be aware of that.
Thought how girls love flowers and candles. Do more of that at home.
Kevin (one of the assistants) came over and acknowledged forgetting to do something he promised with me. A ventiada if you’re curious. They can do them at times during the ceremony. It made me feel recognized and heard. Grew up a lot with a dad who didn’t often follow through.
Started considering ready for a child not out of boredom but next challenge in my life.
Imagined Ly at the alter. Was Nice. Kinda looked like princess Lea but in a Vietnamese dress.
Thought about being 60 and how my kid would be 20. That’s still young. Hope I look good.
When do people start being adults?
Had nice hug with another guy at the retreat towards end of ceremony. We don’t do those enough.
Rain came down super hard which was fitting and many of us were thinking about dancing in the rain. Made me think about being a kid and how the layers of our life just keep adding on top of us. Covering up all the fun.
I walked outside and enjoyed being in the rain for a bit. Had some great memories of paper boats and letting them run down the streets.
Things I want to do for myself:
- Trust myself
- Not sweat it
- Help fix the situation
- Not sweat it and just be
- Make time just for myself
- Take more time to appreciate everything I DO have
- There’s more than enough.
- There’s a solution. Always.
More sleep is always better.
Thought about getting older, balding and what it must feel for my mom to see that. Her youngest child. And how I wear a hat. Just general thoughts about death and aging.
Don’t need to always fill up my schedule.
I wasn’t disappointed with tonight but felt like I did it with training wheels on. It is what I needed. It was a safe time for reflection and clarity.
Does everything come back to how we were raised?
Got asked the question what amount of money to NOT start a business? I liked that.
Need to take care of my relationship/ / that is stability so I can take care of other things.
Thought about making money and how fuck… Can’t really remember but I have more than enough but wanted to prove to my dad I can do it. Never really got acknowledged. More here but wasn’t as strong.
Yea as you can read through it was a lot of random glimpses into things I haven’t really thought about or recognized in awhile.
My drawing while taking the medicine.
Day 3 - Family
Intention: What do I need to face? What do I need to let go?
Going into day I am NOT as scared since I took it too safe the night before. I have questions about what I want to face / let go.
Got anxious as fuck cause I know was “going back in.” All day leading into it. What is this going to teach me?
The ceremony begins:
To begin, I moved my mat closer to the Shaman. After having such a shitty first time, I thought being in a new position would bring new ideas. Sometimes in life it’s good to change things up to see how it affects the experience.
I started with repeating a mantra of I am safe and rubbing my finger and thumbs. Then touching my earrings. This helped ground me and remind me I’m human. Which I truly didn’t think I was the first night.
I am safe. I am safe. Then out of nowhere from taking about 3/4 a regular shot of ayahuasca. (The first day was full shot.) I added in the mantra “I am ready.”
I am safe, I am ready. I am safe, I am ready. I am safe, I am ready.
In and through. In and through. In and through.
Repeated that for awhile.
As it got started there was a scream and a lot of commotion. I had no idea what it was. Found out later a girl got stung by a scorpion. No big deal one of the assistants went over and sucked out the negative energy. Size of a golf ball and spit it out. All cured.
I was sitting up on my mat while it started and for a good hour in the darkness just enjoyed the music.
Then it hit me.
Whoa. I am fucked up. It’s overwhelming and intense.
You see geometric shapes everywhere. You are kinda conscious but not at the same time.
It is very weird how the medicine and songs come together to activate your brain. I highly doubt just taking the Ayahuasca by itself would be as effective. There was a brief moment of fear and considered running for the door but I breathed through it. Face it.
Then I saw the door and smiled to myself how far I’ve come that I want to be in this room. I’m not running. I’m facing and staying.
Noticed how when men were singing I wanted to sit up and be at attention.
It was the complete opposite with the women. I felt safe to lay down.
Right away in the beginning when my brain was all over the place, my mom came to look over me. It was weird af.
A grey light shine down on me and protected me. Ly was with her and they were both shielding and loving me. It gave me strength.
Imagined my mom being young and loving something. Her being scared and her taking care of us. Laid down when women in front were singing and let them all sooth me and create a stable foundation. Nurturing me. I know, it’s weird but I’m tripping balls. Realized I need that foundation for me to do greatness in my life.
There was an ocean wave, maybe it was about Los Angeles?
I have everything.
You have to realize my mind is saying what do I need to let go and what should I face….
but the medicine and yes at this point I’m like this shit is MEDICINE. It’s really helping me. There’s NO way I would have these thoughts or realizations any other way.
It brought my mom in which I had not thought of or really expected.
Then 1/2 through a major block realized — I haven’t had empathy or feelings really since my dad died. I was scared of people leaving me. I haven’t really cried a lot since then either.
The same reason family has never crossed my mind. I’m running. Stop running. Ly is strong. She can handle it. She’s not leaving. I thought how my mom liked Ly.
Imagined my father drinking beer and looking old + sick on his bed. I teared and sucked in his pain.
Realized I’ve been dull AF and this gave me sharpness to everything. I’ve been acting out or feels that way.
I noticed my smell at this point. I was stinky, no deodorant and I fucking loved it. All raw, all man. Me.
Somehow in thinking about my dad and love and the music I got to Yoko Ono.
My dad loved Yoko and for some reason I forgave her in that moment for ruining the Beatles. John loved and needed her.
The women singing at the event called me in and calmed me. Floating in the rain and clouds as the woman music was lifting me. I was outside but inside. Some of the songs sounded hebrew, ly ly ly ly….
It felt like the world’s best concert.
This medicine gave me what I needed.
Next I saw a baby coming through a tunnel, assuming it was a vagina.
It clicked on my that my next project is a family.
I’ve been sabotaged that possibility for awhile cause didnt want it to leave me to. Fear.
I am ready….
To be a man
To be a dad
To get married
Imagined how it’s nearly impossible for anyone to understand the scariness of the shapes, how my brain is tripping the fuck out and how these thoughts are coming to.
Then I saw large animals all over the floor, like kids toys.
One song a guy sang (you can’t see anything it’s pitch black) -- felt like we were around a campfire and our kids are dancing around it.
Then Kevin played a drum loudly and walked around the room. WAKING everyone the fuck up. I sat up on my knees and I felt like a young warrior being christened. At the same time a flute being played across the room made it feel like a mating ritual was happening between the two people.
Felt like I became a man tonight. I was reborn. Stood up. A warrior.
It’s all sacred and real.
Also realized don’t need help with some things and more I need to do it myself. Stop asking for opinions or bringing on people like my Rich People book, I have to face and do it myself.
I CAN make my own decisions.
Chad (my biz partner) was in my mind this night as he appeared in a circle. I realized I need to help him. He needs my help.
It’s just me and the mat that was there tonight. No one else.
What was blowing my mind as the night was winding down was how all of this was inside of me. The whole time. But I didn’t realize it or face it. Started realizing I understand why all the people who talked to me about it afterwards were so about it. Aubrey Marcus, etc… I got it at that moment.
Towards the end I snuck out briefly and ran to my room to write something down
“I never want to do Ayahuasca again.”
You can’t describe WTF just happened. It was the most empowering and scary moment of my life at the same time. That’s the first words that came to me. It seems counterintuitive since the medicine was so helpful but it scared me so much at that time I couldn’t imagine to do it again.
On my way back to the room I sat and appreciated the stars. Just soaked them in.
I triedRape (spelling) that’s kinda like legal Native American cocaine (it’s combination of tobacco, ash and mystic shit). I tried a hit and it wakes you the fuck up. It’s insane.
Thought about alcohol, weed and other substances in my life. It felt like they dulled my life. It also felt like its me avoiding feelings and not dealing with them. More running.
During the final ventiada I kneeled while they blow air (whish sound) on my head. Their prayers and song were magnificent. I could literally tell it was filling up my soul.
Then had insane realization during it about why I hate dogs. For the past years I’ve never cared for them and brush them off when they are close. It was my dad and him passing. God noah, get over your dad but this is some subconscious shit I haven’t realized. I can like them!
Over time in night 3 it was scary, it was emotional and then it was beautiful. I noticed I stopped saying I am safe, I am ready. I was in the situation.
Wanted to use Ayahuasca to get through blocks in my life. I discovered more than I ever imagined.
Imagined being 80 years old and looking back at how this experience was critical in shaping my life. The medicine as someone said will give you as much as you can handle. And exactly what you need.
This night felt like super advanced meditation where you are reaching peace and deep place within yourself to face hard hard realities. I have no clue how it all works but I’m grateful for the insight.
Haven’t spent so much time talking and thinking in god knows how long. I appreciated that.
I canceled 2 days of meetings for afterwards and wanted to spend time mostly alone. Enjoying myself, liking myself and doing things I want. Got massages and went to a float tank. Lost in thoughts and discussion with my fellow attendees.
Did it all really happen?
Will these takeaways stick?
Would I have gotten these thoughts without this medicine?
I’ve said love before to Ly but didn’t mean that until now. What’s different?
I was me holding me back from myself.
Does everything happen that’s going to happen like the people who become rich / famous?
Is it just embrace it, let go of it all and go all in with stable foundation?
Could it ever be the same again?
Was thinking that the medicine trips you out and a lot of the first parts of taking ayahuasca were hard which tired us out and then let to explore parts of ourselves we’ve never wanted to before.
Other breakthroughs people in our group realized were:
- how to get over being sexually molested
- what specific things were holding back a couples relationship
- if there’s a god
- what is love
- what their life’s purpose is
A new friend I made there said it felt like Aya is the matrix, where you plug in any question you have and get the answer.
A bit scared of sharing this experience publicly since it is so personal and what light it portrays me in. But realized that life is short and this helped me so much and it could possibly help many many others.
I’m scared of doing it again, it was hard that last night. That was not easy to get to those thoughts and 7 hours on any mat is tough.
I feel like it opened me up for a bright and amazing future. Have to start thinking best for family and more quality time with my partner.
Wasn’t expecting to walk away like this, expected you should go do X for your biz and maybe break up with your gf. Boy was I in for a treat….
Nothing is as scary once you go through it. Had no idea I was holding myself back from so much. FULLY leaned in.
Would I have gotten here in other ways? NO WAY.
I could have processed, meditated, therapy for years and don’t think in a weekend I would realize I need to love myself more, I’m ready for a family, I have to let Ayman fully grow, step in and help Chad, have my solid foundation of women (Ly + mom) and focus on the work that matters which is the rich people book, sharing great peoples stories (podcast) and doing my charity bike rides.
How does the medicine (Aya) plus the music work? The shaman even calls it technology. It MAKES NO SENSE how it triggers those things. My previous self would have INSTANTLY dismissed this shit. There has to be science and proof. All that science is man made. And whether its placebo or its plant science that we don’t understand yet. I’m still grateful to have come across it at this time in my life.
Closing my eyes and listening to the music of the night, here’s download link. It brings me right back.
Beautiful sunset during one of the days at the experience
Check out my YouTube Channel!🔥
Post Ayahuasca Integration
At the same time last week I was driving casually to the retreat center. What a week it’s been.
The first day out of it I felt pretty normal. I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or if it all happened. The post trip they call it integration. For sure I cannot look at the world the same again. Almost feels like I have as many questions as I got answers from that experience.
Listening to a bunch of Icaros (songs of retreat) brings me back and washes over me a sense of calm. This has been highly related to my sense of energy. What impacts it positively or negatively. Drake’s “Energy” - song is an anthem for it.
I removed all potentially negative meetings, people or events and spent a lot of not stimulating my brain (no audio books, no email, removed instagram, etc). Spent time walking on the beach and this time it felt like I was seeing it completely different. A bit hard to explain...but I am friendly to the homeless people “good morning” or the ocean and its depth gives me so much hope. Even thought to myself how I’m so glad I’m alive and how I wish there was almost way more time alive to enjoy everything. On day 2 post integration I felt the Zen. Peaceful.
Sometimes I got into discussions with people and instantly it hurt my energy. I am sure you can relate in your next interaction. What drains or upsets or just irks you right away? It was that. Instantly.
Another piece is not having to explain myself. Didn’t realize how common that is. When things happen people want to hear or give you comments about it. A good friend said to use the line, “I’m still processing what happened and not ready to talk about it.” We don’t have to share everything. It’s okay if its just for yourself.
A friend texted me “Takes a lot of courage to face what’s in you.” This couldn’t be more exact. The experience was the MOST real mirror of yourself reflected back at you. No sugar coating. Whether it’s aya the self-reflection is a very powerful for self-improvement. It’s the opposite of dulling. It’s extremely sharpening your sense of self, purpose and power. Aligning.
Last night while I was brushing my teeth I generally don’t look in the mirror. Don’t want to see myself. I forced myself to look. To love myself. To appreciate the wrinkles, the hair, the creases, everything. Relieving. Have to keep looking and going in.
On reflection Aya is a vine. It comes from the tree. It clicked with me how true that is. It’s taking you down to the roots. So much therapy and self-help like Tony Robbins deal with surface level issues. This goes right for the heart. Right for what’s really going on.
A few things have come up this week that have been great:
- Daily Empowerment. Created daily empowerment which is a note of things I really want to take away from the experience. I’ve been reading it in the morning and it brings me back. Grounds and empowers me.
- Remove the drains. Not checking the news, email, text messages, Slack or Instagram is so healthy. So much of that is negative, reactive and draining. More I get more energy in creation, deep discussions and the things I’m insanely stoked about. One question a friend said was “if you had 10 million dollars NOT to work on your biz, would you?” I loved it. What’s really important? What’s not?
Had a few conversations that instantly drained me, not saying should avoid hard things or challenges; just be aware the time for handling that.
- When’s my next booster shot? This was extreme self-therapy. How can I do this regularly? Every 6 months? Not sure therapy will even compare for me in the future. But how can I keep working on myself consistently. Think doing float tanks where all distractions are removed help. Have to put in my calendar or make effort for routine maintenance.
- Music is a trigger. At the gym it pumps me up and the music from experience is good way to go back to grounding. Back to myself.
- Share. Interviewed the Shaman and he said a great shaman is someone who doesn’t make you dependent. Wow, love that message.. Also, don’t pressure or tell anyone else to do Aya, just share your message. I debated long if I wanted to be associated with it. The fact I’ll die and it won’t matter, removed having regret from the stigma. I feel compelled to share. It makes me feel good without the need for validation.
A few people asked who should go do this? You’ll know when it’s right.
In and through.
Want to hear more stories about adventures, ups-and-downs, and business? Click here to join my email newsletter.
What Is Ayahuasca? Experience, Benefits, and Side Effects
You may have heard stories of people traveling to foreign destinations to experience taking Ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew.
Typically, these anecdotes tend to focus on the immediate effects that take place during an Ayahuasca “trip,” some of which are enlightening, while others are downright distressing.
However, scientists have uncovered several long-term health benefits of taking Ayahuasca.
This article reviews Ayahuasca, including its negative and positive effects on health.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca — also known as the tea, the vine, and la purga — is a brew made from the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub along with the stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, though other plants and ingredients can be added as well ().
This drink was used for spiritual and religious purposes by ancient Amazonian tribes and is still used as a sacred beverage by some religious communities in Brazil and North America, including the Santo Daime.
Traditionally, a shaman or curandero — an experienced healer who leads Ayahuasca ceremonies — prepares the brew by boiling torn leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub and stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine in water.
The Banisteriopsis caapi vine is cleaned and smashed before being boiled to increase the extraction of its medicinal compounds.
When the brew has reduced to the shaman’s liking, the water is removed and reserved, leaving behind the plant material. This process is repeated until a highly concentrated liquid is produced. Once cooled, the brew is strained to remove impurities.
How does it work?
The main ingredients of Ayahuasca — Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis — both have hallucinogenic properties ().
Psychotria viridis contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a psychedelic substance that occurs naturally in the plant.
DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic chemical. However, it has low bioavailability, as it gets rapidly broken down by enzymes called monoamine oxidases (MAOs) in your liver and gastrointestinal tract ().
For this reason, DMT must be combined with something containing MAO inhibitors (MAOIs), which allow DMT to take effect. Banisteriopsis caapi contains potent MAOIs called β-carbolines, which also have psychoactive effects of their own ().
When combined, these two plants form a powerful psychedelic brew that affects the central nervous system, leading to an altered state of consciousness that can include hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and euphoria.
Ayahuasca is a brew made from the Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis plants. Taking Ayahuasca leads to an altered level of consciousness due to psychoactive substances in the ingredients.
How is Ayahuasca used?
Though Ayahuasca was traditionally used for religious and spiritual purposes by specific populations, it has become popular worldwide among those who seek a way to open their minds, heal from past traumas, or simply experience an Ayahuasca journey.
It’s strongly recommended that Ayahuasca only be taken when supervised by an experienced shaman, as those who take it need to be looked after carefully, as an Ayahuasca trip leads to an altered state of consciousness that lasts for many hours.
Many people travel to countries like Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil, where multi-day Ayahuasca retreats are offered. They’re led by experienced shamans, who prepare the brew and monitor participants for safety.
Before partaking in an Ayahuasca ceremony, it’s recommended that participants abstain from cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sex, and caffeine to purify their bodies.
It’s also often suggested to follow various diets, such as vegetarianism or veganism, for 2–4 weeks prior to the experience. This is claimed to free the body of toxins.
Ayahuasca ceremony and experience
Ayahuasca ceremonies are usually held at night and last until the effects of Ayahuasca have worn off. After the space is prepared and blessed by the shaman leading the ceremony, Ayahuasca is offered to participants, sometimes split into several doses.
After consuming the Ayahuasca, most people start to feel its effects within 20–60 minutes. The effects are dose-dependent, and the trip can last 2–6 hours ().
Those who take Ayahuasca can experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, feelings of euphoria, strong visual and auditory hallucinations, mind-altering psychedelic effects, fear, and paranoia ().
It should be noted that some of the adverse effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are considered a normal part of the cleansing experience.
People react to Ayahuasca differently. Some experience euphoria and a feeling of enlightenment, while others go through severe anxiety and panic. It’s not uncommon for those taking Ayahuasca to experience both positive and negative effects from the brew.
The shaman and others who are experienced in Ayahuasca offer spiritual guidance to participants throughout the Ayahuasca experience and monitor participants for safety. Some retreats have medical staff on hand as well, in case of emergencies.
These ceremonies are sometimes conducted consecutively, with participants consuming Ayahuasca a few nights in a row. Every time you take Ayahuasca, it results in a different experience.
Ayahuasca ceremonies are typically led by an experienced shaman. Ayahuasca takes 20–60 minutes to kick in, and its effects can last up to 6 hours. Typical effects include visual hallucinations, euphoria, paranoia, and vomiting.
Potential benefits of Ayahuasca
Many people who have taken Ayahuasca claim that the experience led to positive, long-term, life-altering changes. This may be due to the effects of Ayahuasca on the neurological system.
Recent research has shown that Ayahuasca may benefit health — particularly brain health — in a number of ways.
May benefit brain health
The main active ingredients in Ayahuasca — DMT and β-carbolines — have been shown to exhibit neuroprotective and neurorestorative qualities in some studies.
DMT activates the sigma-1 receptor (Sig-1R), a protein that blocks neurodegeneration and regulates the production of antioxidant compounds that help protect your brain cells ().
A test-tube study indicated that DMT protected human brain cells from damage caused by lack of oxygen and increased cell survival ().
Harimine, the main β-carboline in Ayahuasca, has been found to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and memory-boosting effects in test-tube and animal studies (, ).
It has also been observed to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays an important role in nerve cell growth and promotes nerve cell survival ().
Additionally, a test-tube study demonstrated that exposure to harmine increased the growth of human neural progenitor cells by over 70% in 4 days. These cells generate the growth of new neural cells in your brain ().
May improve psychological well-being
Research has shown that taking Ayahuasca may increase the mindfulness capacity of your brain and improve your overall psychological well-being.
A study in 20 people indicated that consuming Ayahuasca once weekly for 4 weeks was as effective as an 8-week mindfulness program at increasing acceptance — a component of mindfulness that plays a fundamental role in psychological health ().
Other studies have found similar results, noting that Ayahuasca may improve mindfulness, mood, and emotional regulation ().
A study in 57 people demonstrated that ratings of depression and stress were significantly decreased immediately after the participants consumed Ayahuasca. These effects were still significant 4 weeks following the Ayahuasca consumption ().
They’re mostly attributed to the DMT and β-carbolines in Ayahuasca ().
May help treat addiction, anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and PTSD
Some research suggests that Ayahuasca may benefit those with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction disorders.
A study in 29 people with treatment-resistant depression showed that a single dose of Ayahuasca led to significant improvements in depression severity compared with a placebo. Other studies report rapid antidepressant effects of Ayahuasca as well (, ).
Additionally, a review of six studies concluded that Ayahuasca showed beneficial effects in treating depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and drug dependence ().
Several studies have focused on the effects of Ayahuasca on addiction disorders, including addictions to crack cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine — with promising results ().
In one study, 12 people with severe psychological and behavioral issues related to substance abuse participated in a 4-day treatment program that included 2 Ayahuasca ceremonies.
At a 6-month follow up, they demonstrated significant improvements in mindfulness, hopefulness, empowerment, and overall quality of life. Plus, self-reported use of tobacco, cocaine, and alcohol significantly declined ().
Researchers hypothesize that Ayahuasca may help those with PTSD as well, though more research in this area is needed ().
According to current research, Ayahuasca may protect brain cells and stimulate neural cell growth. It may also boost mood, improve mindfulness, and treat depression and addiction disorders, though more research is needed to confirm these effects.
Considerations and potential side effects
While taking part in an Ayahuasca ceremony may seem alluring, consuming this psychedelic brew can lead to serious, even deadly, side effects.
First, even though many of the unpleasant side effects that are usually experienced during an Ayahuasca trip, such as vomiting, diarrhea, paranoia, and panic, are considered normal and only temporary, they can be extremely distressing.
Some people report having miserable Ayahuasca experiences, and there is no guarantee that you will react favorably to the concoction.
What’s more, ayahuasca can interact dangerously with many medications, including antidepressants, psychiatric medications, drugs used to control Parkinson’s disease, cough medicines, weight loss medications, and more ().
Those with a history of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, should avoid Ayahuasca, as taking it could worsen their psychiatric symptoms and result in mania ().
Additionally, taking Ayahuasca can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which may result in dangerous side effects if you have a heart condition ().
There have been several reported deaths due to Ayahuasca consumption, but they may be due to the addition of other ingredients or dosing issues. Death has never been reported in a clinical trial on Ayahuasca (, ).
Aside from these dangers, participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony means putting your life in the shaman’s hands, as they’re in charge of the ingredients added to the brew, as well as determining proper dosing and monitoring you for potentially life-threatening side effects.
There have been reports of Ayahuasca retreats being offered by untrained individuals, who are not well-versed in the preparation, dosing, or side effects of Ayahuasca, putting participants in danger.
Moreover, though there have been promising findings related to the health benefits of Ayahuasca, these benefits were mostly related to clinical studies in which the preparation and dosing of the concoction were carefully controlled.
Treatment for psychological disorders, such as depression and PTSD, should only be offered by medical professionals, and those living with these conditions should not seek symptom relief by participating in Ayahuasca ceremonies.
Overall, more research is needed to determine whether Ayahuasca can be used as a potential treatment for certain medical conditions by doctors in the future.
Taking Ayahuasca can result in serious side effects, as it can interact with many medications and may worsen some medical conditions. Those with medical conditions should not seek symptom relief by participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony.
The bottom line
Ayahuasca is made from parts of the Psychotria viridis shrub and Banisteriopsis caapi vine.
It has powerful hallucinogenic properties and may cause both positive and negative health effects.
Much more research is needed to determine whether it can be used as a safe alternative treatment for certain health conditions.
If you’re interested in participating in an Ayahuasca experience, be sure to do your research and know that safety is not guaranteed — even if the Ayahuasca is prepared and delivered by an experienced shaman.
'I was sexually abused by a shaman at an ayahuasca retreat'
By Simon Maybin and Josephine Casserly
BBC News, Peru
The psychedelic powers of a traditional Amazonian plant medicine called ayahuasca are attracting more and more tourists. It's said to bring spiritual enlightenment and to help with addiction, depression and trauma. But a string of allegations suggests there's a darker side to the ayahuasca scene.
Warning: this article contains details of alleged sexual assaults
Rebekah first tried ayahuasca on a "complete whim" when she was travelling in Peru in 2015.
"I thought it sounded interesting and I thought I might as well give it a try," says Rebekah, a New Zealander in her 20s who asked the BBC not to use her surname. "So I found a retreat centre that I felt was good and I just went for it and it was amazing."
Ayahuasca can induce visions of things like serpents, palaces, and alien beings - and bring up long-forgotten memories. Like many who've drunk the brew, Rebekah has a wide-eyed distant look as she reminisces about the experience.
"It was like being guided very gently and very kindly through some really awful experiences that I'd had in the past," Rebekah says. "And returning back home after that, I felt like my relationships were a lot stronger. I felt it was a lot easier to share and receive love.
"They do say that ayahuasca is like 20 years of psychotherapy. And I completely believe that."
Ayahuasca is usually taken in ceremonies at night, led by a healer - sometimes called a shaman. He or she will drink the sticky brown liquid - a brew of two Amazonian plants - then dole out helpings to the participants.
It's been used by tribes in the Amazon region for centuries but now there's a boom in what's become known as "ayahuasca tourism", with ever more specialist retreat centres opening. Travellers often come for help dealing with mental health problems - and a growing body of scientific research suggests ayahuasca could be an effective treatment.
About half an hour or so into a ceremony, the medicine takes its effect and the healer will start singing sacred chants, known as icaros, which guide the participants through their visions. Drinkers usually "purge" during ceremonies too, vomiting and sometimes getting diarrhoea as well.
When Rebekah went on her first ayahuasca retreat, she was the only single woman there and noticed that the male healer was paying her special attention.
"How he treated me was very different, which I didn't find suspicious at the time. But upon reflection, now I do."
A year later, by now a more experienced ayahuasca drinker, Rebekah returned to the same retreat in Peru. The same healer was leading the ceremonies.
Once again, she says, she was treated differently from everyone else. There was a lot of flattery. Then the healer began confiding in Rebekah.
"He constantly told me that he had a lot of troubles," she says, "and he said he was having problems with his wife, that he wasn't sexually fulfilled, and that I was the one who was able to cure him of that."
Rebekah was 20 at the time; the healer in his 50s.
"He also promised me a lot of spiritual advancement or a lot of spiritual power, if we had a relationship - while his wife was down the road."
- Listn to Simon Maybin and Josephine Casserly's documentary Ayahuasca: Fear and Healing in the Amazon on BBC Sounds
Rebekah says the healer sexually abused her, coercing her into sexual acts.
"It's disgusting," she says. "Because he was a shaman, I thought he had moral superiority in a sense and I trusted him."
After she was abused, Rebekah left the centre - and the country: "I booked a flight and got the hell out of there."
She was left with a tangle of painful emotions: "Disgust, repulsion, betrayal - confusion, as well as to why a guide would do this, why a teacher would do this and why they would exploit their power like that."
Rebekah's alleged abuser is still the head shaman at his centre - which gets five-star ratings on review sites.
"He is still there," Rebekah says, clearly deeply angered by the situation. Her hands are visibly shaking. "There are other centres that I know of as well that are still operating. There've been multiple women that have been sexually abused in these centres."
Experiences of sexual abuse seem to be widespread in this world. We've heard numerous allegations against numerous healers and read many testimonies of sexual abuse on online forums.
One name that comes up repeatedly is Guillermo Arévalo, a well-known healer who's been honoured by the Peruvian Congress for his work on sustainable development.
"He came to Canada many times," says a woman in her 40s whom we're calling Anna.
"It was quite lucrative - big ceremonies. They'd fill up fast, people paying C$300 (£175) to come and sit with Guillermo. He had kind of a status. It was an honour to sit in ceremony with him."
Anna, who had long been interested in alternative medicine, hoped ayahuasca might help her deal with her addiction to heroin.
At first, she was impressed by Arévalo.
"Like a lot of people, you're flabbergasted by the man's presence and power and ability to lead the ceremony - it's quite profound," she says. "The chanting. He is a good healer."
But a ceremony about seven years ago dramatically changed Anna's opinion.
"It was completely pitch black, the room had no windows. There were a lot of people.
"I was under the effects of the medicine. When you're under the effects there's lots of different sounds. People are crying, verbalising things that make no sense at all, purging or moaning.
"Even if I had been able to say something, nobody would respond."
Anna was having a difficult time. She recalls lying down, moaning and groaning. "Guillermo came and he sat with me and at first it was a sense of relief because I think I'm going to get some help," she says.
"He started to chant to me and put his hands on my stomach over my clothing which is normal. And then he put his hands down my pants. And there's this sense of feeling frozen. I lay there in fear and then he put his hands up my shirt and felt around my breasts."
She remembers thinking: "'What the heck was that all about?' Just a sense of disbelief and confusion."
It's taken six years for Anna to feel able to speak out about what happened to her.
"Women are conditioned to accept this behaviour. For myself, coming from a history of addiction - and I've had abusive relationships with men that I've tolerated in my life - and a history of childhood sexual abuse, there's a sense of familiarity there, of normalcy.
"And also this weird co-dependent relationship for me where the medicine was helping me so I didn't want to speak up because I was afraid I would be ostracised from the community and then I would be kind of cut off from the medicine."
While preliminary scientific studies have suggested that ayahuasca could have therapeutic benefits, it contains DMT, which is illegal in the UK, and there are potential risks.
A 2015 report found six volunteers with depression showed a decrease in symptoms after taking it. A separate study two years later indicated that it held promise as a treatment for eating disorders. Psychologists have also speculated that it could help those with PTSD.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns that some people have "suffered serious illnesses and in some cases death" after taking part in ayahuasca ceremonies. It points out that retreats are typically some distance from populated areas and that while some have basic medical facilities, others do not.
Around the same time, a group calling themselves Ayahuasca Community Awareness Canada - which included senior academics - put their names to a letter about Arévalo's behaviour and circulated it within the ayahuasca scene. The letter-writers say they took action because of the number of complaints made against the healer, citing reports of non-consensual or inappropriate sexual behaviour.
When further named signatories were added to the letter in 2015 and it was made public, Arévalo stopped visiting Canada to lead ayahuasca ceremonies.
But when we track him down it seems he's been active all around the world in the intervening years and is now based at a retreat centre in Peru. The place used to be called Anaconda but when we're there has its first group of foreign guests under a new name, Bena Shinan.
They're milling around in a dining room behind us when we put the allegations of sexual abuse to Arévalo, a slight 71-year-old with silver hair and gold teeth.
"I don't accept the allegations because they're not true," he says firmly. "Because sometimes people just imagine these things."
He says he's heard about the letter by members of the Canadian ayahuasca community, but has never read it.
"It doesn't interest me because the allegations aren't true," he says. "It doesn't bother me because I don't think an allegation's going to kill me."
The claims against him, he says, are "the imaginings of the unwell person".
"When you touch someone who's been abused or raped, they think you're the same. That's what happens. That's how I make sense of it."
When we put Anna's specific allegation to him, he says he doesn't remember ever touching a patient during a ceremony in Canada, saying she too must have imagined it.
"What else is he going to do other than just lie and deny it," Anna responds. "Otherwise he would have to step up and take responsibility and be accountable for the way he has acted."
What about his claim that she just imagined the sexual assault?
"It sounds like gaslighting to me, really," she says. "That's what it feels like."
Although Arévalo denies having sexually abused anyone, he does admit that healers working under him have had sex with "unwell people".
He says he no longer works with those healers, but that in some cases it was the patients who initiated the relationships.
"Western women, when they come, they're also seeking out healers," he says.
Anna's experience with ayahuasca and abuse doesn't end with Guillermo Arévalo. Despite her experiences with him, she didn't want to give up the benefits she received from the brew and continued taking it under the guidance of other healers.
She says that in 2014 she was raped in ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru by a healer who is a member of Arévalo's extended family.
She says again she "just froze" and "let him do whatever he wanted to me".
"I think he probably raped me four or five times and I noticed he was doing it to other people."
Afterwards, Anna says she was in shock. She doesn't remember much about that period of her life.
"I started to develop symptoms of psychosis and ended up relapsing and becoming addicted to fentanyl and overdosed and almost died. I think I really blamed myself for a long time - why I couldn't say no, why I couldn't move, why I let him do those things. Those were the things that were going through my mind."
We've spoken to another guest who was at the same retreat as Anna, who says the healer was later sacked from the centre, because of allegations made by other clients. We're not naming him because, despite our best efforts, we haven't been able to reach him to give him the chance to respond to the allegations.
Emily Sinclair, a British doctoral student researching ayahuasca, is part of a group trying to raise awareness about the problem of sexual abuse in the ayahuasca world.
Working with the Chacruna Institute, an organisation set up to share research on plant medicines and psychedelics, Sinclair helped put together the Ayahuasca Community Guide for the Awareness of Sexual Abuse.
The guidelines highlight typical scenarios in which abuse happens. They also encourage people to drink with trusted companions and to research retreats by checking out review websites before they visit.
Sinclair has been distributing the little green booklet to cafes, tourism offices and ayahuasca centres in the Iquitos area of Peru, known as the hub of ayahuasca tourism.
"A lot of abuse we've found occurs in the context of individual healings where a woman might be asked to remove her clothes unnecessarily," she says. "And when she's in this unfamiliar context, she doesn't know if that's normal or not."
Sinclair points out that it's not just indigenous healers abusing Westerners. "Abuse happens across cultures and within them," she says.
"But one of the big problems is that a lot of people who come here romanticise shamans. So we put them on a pedestal. And it's very easy for that image to be taken advantage of.
"There's also assumptions that some of the people here may have about Western women and culture."
Some of the red flags Sinclair warns people to watch out for echo Rebekah's experience.
"If he's overly touchy with you, he tells you his wife doesn't mind him having sex with other women, he encourages pacts of silence and secrecy between you, he says he wants to teach you 'love magic'. This kind of thing. And also that having sex with them will increase their power and energy. These are all things that have been reported to us as being said to women in this context."
Those affected by sexual abuse understandably find it difficult to talk about openly. On top of that, there's a strong sense within the ayahuasca world that any kind of negative publicity could result in government intervention, which creates an additional pressure to stay silent.
But Rebekah and Anna are speaking out because they hope it will prevent other women being abused.
"I think the only thing we can do is just speak out about it and talk about it," Rebekah says, "make sure people know that it's happening."
Rebekah says that after she was abused there's been "a lot of sadness and a lot of therapy".
It's been hard work for her to trust a healer again, but now she's back in Peru, taking ayahuasca and researching her master's thesis on indigenous medicine.
"Regardless of everything that happened, obviously ayahuasca's great," Rebekah laughs, "because I keep going back to it."
- Sci fi interiors
- Longsword dnd 5e
- Toyota aftermarket grill
- 2011 ford escape key replacement
- Used rescue truck bodies
- Yuneec 4k q500
- Canon selphy bundle
- Deviantart giving birth
- Every guys weakness
- Pixel ripped vr
- Silhouette of man face
- Motorcycles for sale miami craigslist
- Vietnamese bonsai pots