Ayahuasca Family

ayahuasca retreat

Trying Ayahuasca was something I’ve wanted to do ever since I became more serious about my spiritual growth. While in Colombia, I participated in a talk about this ancient medicine that was lead by two women that were organizing a monthly overnight ayahuasca retreat. I immediately jumped at their offer to join in on the ceremony. In the days leading up to the retreat, my mind was filled with all sorts of ideas and expectations of what my experience would be like.

I’d read multiple stories and seen a few documentaries where people talk about their experience with Ayahuasca and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Most of their testimonies gave in-depth detail on wild and bizarre glimpses into higher dimensions and altered states of reality. I wondered if I would come face to face with my spirit guides or maybe get launched from my body out into the cosmos. In retrospect, I may have been overly anxious to dive deep into the mystical realms.

The ceremony began at midnight and went until 8 a.m. the next day. When I arrived at the retreat, the shamans gathered all of the participants that were drinking ayahuasca for the first time. As we stood in a circle, he explained that ayahuasca is not a trendy thing to do, it’s a powerful medicine that brings about holistic healing to the user. He also mentioned that it was important to set a clear intention of what we would like to work on right before we drank it. This is because the medicine works with the user’s intention to bring about desired healing.

The shaman told us that he’d seen many people that only take ayahuasca to get lost in higher dimensions and neglect their physical reality. He explained that our physical body and this physical reality is also a part of creation and it’s sometimes necessary to focus on the body (and this reality) to bring about necessary healing. After explaining the purpose of the medicine, the shamans welcomed us into the ayahuasca family and we all lined up to drink our first cup. Everyone that I’ve asked about ayahuasca said that it tastes terrible, but no two ayahuasca brews taste the same. Each shaman has their own method for creating the drink, and the flavors are also affected by the particular region the plants were grown, how they are cared for, etc.

When I got to the front of the line, I set my intention and drank, the flavor wasn’t as terrible as I expected. It tasted like sour red wine, so sure it wasn’t great but it wasn’t unbearable either. We all gathered around the fire and relaxed, waiting for the medicine to take effect while the shamans started singing ceremonial songs.

About an hour later I started to feel nauseous and began seeing random patterns around the room. A few minutes later I felt an intense force pressing down on my stomach. I had set two intentions before I drank the ayahuasca, the first was to receive healing for some digestive issued that I’d been having. The second was to have the universe show me what I needed to know at this time in my life. When I felt the pressure on my stomach,  I was certain that my first intention came through. As the intensity on my stomach increased, I had to lay down to cope with the discomfort.

Another hour later the shamans called for a second drink, I drank it and became even more nauseous. Despite feeling sick all night long, I never actually got the urge to throw up or go to the bathroom like in most descriptions I’ve heard. From the very first cup, at least half of the group had an intense physical reaction. Some people were weeping uncontrollably, others were rotating in and out of the bathroom, and some were violently vomiting all night. None of these things happened to me. Instead, I keeled over from nausea around 4 am and passed out until sunrise.

I’d read that the harsh physical reactions are only a side effect when people don’t follow the detox diet recommended for ayahuasca at least a week before the ceremony. I have been vegan for over two years, but that week I ate even cleaner than usual, avoiding fried and oily foods as much as possible. I also fasted for 24 hours before the ceremony. As the sun came up and the ceremony came to an end, I honestly had mixed feelings about the ceremony. I certainly had a powerful healing experience, but I never got to have that deep conversation with the universe that I was hoping for.

I started to wonder if I didn’t prepare enough or maybe I just wasn’t ready for that yet. Then, I remembered the words of the shaman before the ceremony began.  Sometimes what needs to be worked on most is purely in the physical and not out in the spiritual realms. So I took a moment to express my gratitude for the healing I received and said goodbye to the shamans. It was a great introduction to the ayahuasca ritual, and it definitely won’t be my last.


Also published on Medium.