During my time in Peru, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work closely with the sacred plant medicines indigenous to South America, such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro Cactus (Huachuma), Cacao, and Rapé (Tobacco). In my personal healing journey, Ayahuasca has revealed deep layers of trauma that have not been accessible otherwise. It has been the most powerful tool and ally in my healing, and the development of my healing work for others. However, this plant spirit is not for everyone. If you do feel a calling to work with Ayahuasca, it is important to talk in person about your intentions for the ceremony, any health conditions, and any medications or herbs that you take regularly. -- add that we don't do in the US --
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a brewed tea consisting mainly of two plants that has been used in the Amazon forest for thousands of years for purposes of healing, spiritual connection, and receiving information and insight. The chacruna leaf contains naturally occuring DMT, a hormone that is produced naturally in our brains during three points in life; in the process of birth, in the process, of death, and while we are dreaming. In our normal waking state, our brain also contains an enzyme that breaks down DMT. The Ayahuasca vine is an MAO inhibitor that prevents this enzyme from working so that we can produce higher levels of DMT than normal. In some cases, other plants are added to this mixture, but personally I only work with a pure mixture of these two plants, as some of the additions can have dangerous chemical effects. There is an informative documentary available on Netflix called "DMT The spirit Molecule" that gives an easy to understand explanation of this hormone. The chacruna leaf is responsible for the visionary aspect of an Ayahuasca experience, and the Ayahuasca vine is what produces the cleansing and purgative effects.
Ayahuasca works very deeply on every level of our being. On the physical level, the medicine circulates throughout the body, removing toxins, and in ways impossible to explain through science, commonly helping to heal many physical diseases. On a mental level, Ayahuasca helps to reveal negative beliefs that we hold onto from the various layers of conditioning we have been exposed to from a small child. She helps to clear away false parts of our identities and the "roles" that we take on in different stages of life to reconnect us with what we are at our core. Root causes of deep seated fears, insecurities, and judgement of ourselves and others can be released through this work. On an emotional level, Ayahuasca helps to release built up emotions from all of the times we have been uneable to express ourselves, and also helps to delve into past traumatic experiences so that we can see these things from an outside perspective and gain clarity. On a spiritual level, it helps resolve deep feelings of separation, abandonment and unworthiness as we are more easily able to connect to the God essence within us. --inintuitive gifts-- This is a very, very simple summary of how this medicine works. I am more than happy to share the huge variety of experiences I have had while working with the medicine.
Another name for Ayahuasca among the tribes who work with it is "la purga" or "the purge", named for the cleansing effects of the vine. Purging comes in many, many forms in ceremony and is essentially a release of energy from the body. One of the most common ways of purging is through vomitting. In our culture, we have a very negative relationship with vomitting; relating it to previous experiences when we are ill, ate something poisonous, perhaps drinking too much alcohol, or sometimes mentally related to an eating disorder. In the case of Ayahuasca, the vine is not doing harm to your body. The liquid that is expelled is a carrier for the energy you are releasing. This can be physical toxins built up in your body, a manifestation of "mental" toxins in your mind, pain from previous relationships and traumas in your life, and a number of many other things. Many people are fully aware of what it is they are releasing when they purge, and the feeling after is that of great relief, not of feeling sick. Sometimes people feel the purge come from a place in the body other than the stomach. Physical purging can also happen through spitting, sinus clearing, shaking, or feeling hot or cold. Sometimes it takes the form of frequent urination or diarrhea.
Purging is not always purely physical. Sometimes it can take the form of a "funhouse" in the head as we release unneeded thoughts related to media and advertising. When working on an emotional level, crying is a common way of purging.
Approaches to Ayahuasca
It is said that traditionally, Ayahuasca was a medicine that was only drank by the Shaman working with the patient in order to connect to the spirit realm and bring through the words and chants used for healing. In today's world, it is used both in private and group settings in a growing number of countries. When working with indigenous shamans in the Rainforest, ceremonies are generally held in a screened maloka in complete darkness, and the shaman uses only his voice to channel singing called "Icaro". They also work with tobacco smoke and a special form of bodywork. Caution is advised when researching a place to work with Ayahuasca in the jungle, as many people will add other plants to the mixture that increase the visionary effects, in order to meet the demands of the many tourists who expect an intense visual experience. There have also been many accounts of sexual abuse and very negative energetic effects. It is best to ask many people for personal recommendations if you feel to work in the indigenous tradition.
On the opposite end of the specturm, there are people around the world holding Ayahuasca ceremonies in very large groups of people, here in the Valley I have seen ceremonies of 100 people. In these larger ceremonies, the space is held through music and each person is more or less expected to be independent in their process, although help is given if it is really needed. I feel there are advantages to these types of ceremonies, and they can be absolutely beautiful, but recommend private ceremonies or small groups to anyone whose intention is for very specific healing purposes.
Our Approach to Ceremony
At this point in our path, our approach is inbetween these extremes. We prefer to hold ceremonies with only one person, or in some cases a romantic couple or two close friends, and occasionally hold a ceremony limited to four people. I feel personally that this is the best way for me to fully focus on the healing aspect of the ceremony and remain in full integrity. We integrate many shamanic practices into our ceremonies, and after a period of silence and meditation, open with traditional Icaros. The rest of the music is a blend of songs in different languages, and channeling in the moment through piano, percussion, only the voice, or flute. The purpose of sound and music in an Ayahuasca ceremony is to give the experience direction and to help to move energy. In many of my experiences, the voice has felt like a surgical tool of sorts, pulling out energy, pain, and negative emotion, filling the area with healing, and closing it back up. During this portion of the ceremony, I typically assist people hands on through energy work or cleansing using a variety of herbs. We frequently work with tobacco in the form of rape (more information here) to assist in the process, but this is fully optional. This part of the ceremony can last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours depending on each person's process and if there is a second or third dose given. When the intensity begins to fade, we enjoy grounding through drumming and movement through stretching or dancing to connect fully to the physical body and help to move physical tension. There is a thorough clearing of the space and the energy field of each participant at the closing of the ceremony.