Ayahuasca – The Vegetal Shamanic medicine

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all, or by having everything happen all at once.” – Paulo Coelho

For those interested I had a once in a lifetime weekend of fantastic and profound experiences with the use of the vegetal shamanic medicine – Ayahuasca, in the Italian Alps at the back end of last year, December 2014.

To the uninitiated, Ayahuasca, Also known as Yage’ to the natives of Brazil, is a most sacred, psycho-shamanic brew with absolutely vast medicinal capabilities.

It is ingested in to the human body in the form of a brew / beverage.
Ayahuasca originates in South America, namely with the amazonian people of Peru.

It’s taste is no less than vile, yet smooth – possibly due to the length of time it is cooked & marinated for during brewing preparations. More on this a bit later.

Ayahuasca I have come to learn, can be made in several different variants.
Traditionally it is with the shrub leaves of ‘Psychotria Viridis’, a genus of flowering plants in the “Rubiaceae family” which naturally contain Dimethyltryptamine, commonly known as DMT – “The spirit molecule” for it’s extraordinary hallucinogenic properties.

(or alternatively, in other cases ‘Justicia pectoralis’ plant which does not contain DMT.)

These leaves containing DMT are then crucially mixed with the ‘Banisteriopsis caapi vine’ commonly regarded as the “Vine of souls” by the peoples of South America.

Possibly the most curious and interesting part about this completely natural and psychedelic medicine, now making it’s transformative and healing journey across the western world, is that in order for the Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) to actually have any effect on the human body at all, Ayahuasca must be prepared by mixing these two specific components alone.

As the Vine – ‘Banisteriopsis caapi’ acts as the enzyme activator in the mix allowing the DMT within our digestive systems to produce for us, insights of great depth and colour.

The curious part, is that out of over approximately 150,000 species of plants and vines available in the amazonian forests, it is only these two specifically which activate each other to produce the brew and allowing ayahuascas immense potentiality!

The shamans responsible for such ayahuasca ceremonies say that they have gained such knowledge of the concoctions, directly from the spirits of the plants themselves in the jungles, and being divinely guided through their own consciousness. Frankly, after my experiences with Ayahuasca, I feel we are not an authority to tell them otherwise.

I must admit, I owe most of my own personal – intellectual knowledge and deep curiosity for Ayahuasca mainly to one man, Journalist and British author of “Fingerprints of the Gods” – Graham Hancock.

Over the majority of 2014, I was an avid follower of the pro-active work being done by Graham to educate the western world on psychedelics and their amazing healing and transformative capabilities for the human race. Not just psychedelics either, but medicines, sacred and shamanic, such as Ayahuasca.

This is nothing particularly new though I must say, As Graham follows a long trail of educated pioneers on these fronts, such as; Stanislav Grof, Terence Mckenna and Timothy Leary. The difference being, that now the timing is crucial in our decaying world with too much emphasis on pharmaceutical drugs with their many many detrimental side effects, and far too little emphasis on readily available natural alternatives, such as mother Ayahuasca.

The results and research has been found to be remarkable – with drug addicts of cocaine and heroin as well as alcoholics entering the Takiwasi center in Peru, leaving after 12 sessions or so of ayahuasca to never look back at their old addictions and habits.
As well as people arriving in wheelchairs for Ayahuasca sessions, only to leave with functioning limbs once again – Just like the lady in the video I have attached at the end of this report below.

ayahuasca 3

I personally attended a few of Grahams lectures in the capital London on the subjects of psychedelics and lost civilizations and can honestly say that he alone was responsible for my willingness and openness to partake in the Ayahuasca, with his ability to present such a grounded and well educated point of view on such substances.

I recommend further checking out many of Graham’s invaluable
videos on YouTube, such as the curiously banned TED talk, the “War on consciousness” as Graham puts it –

to truly receive more in depth insights into the approaches of Ayahuasca and many other psychedelics.

It was really by a great synchrony that I would be flying myself, along with my hypnotherapy tutor of the last 12 months to the Italian Alps for an Ayahuasca retreat December, 2014.

Having been speaking on the phone to her only a fortnight before the Italian retreat was due to commence and
before I really knew or fully understood it, I had placed a partial deposit for my trip and
was commencing temporary work to help cover the costs immediately, which I can say were rather affordable in comparison to other retreats, directly over in Brazil.

I had faith in the process and just knew I had to go and do this for myself.
I am not a believer of coincidences, for me everything happens for a reason and ayahuasca had called!

On arrival in Italy we were met by one of the Ayahuasca English representatives, John and escorted back to the retreats location by minibus.
The people gathered in the airport for the retreat appeared friendly, warm and unassuming characters, and it confirmed to me from all of my research thus far, that this group of individuals were not here in Italy to just “Get High” but in fact much more likely, they were here to meet reality – their realities, through the processes of expanded consciousness.

hotel

Our retreat center was around an hour an 10 minutes from the Bergamo airport, Situated right at the top of a mountain peak which appeared to be at the beginnings of the Italian alps, as no snow was present and temperatures were mild in comparison to back home in the UK, especially being up as high as we were.

Climbing up the mountain in our minibus to the retreat centre at the top was possibly the most frightful part of my weekend as some vertigo kicked in. By now it was fully dark, with some dampness on the ground and in the atmosphere and slight foggy conditions.
A single narrow road, capable of fitting just one vehicle at a time, zig-zagged us back and forth to the mountain top.

In some cases, 3 point turns were needed to get us around the impossibly narrow corners of the mountain. Needless to say I was pleased to arrive safely at the top.

Once we had arrived and were introduced to the organizers, we headed into the center where on arrival many people seemed to be wondering around aimlessly.
It quickly became apparent to us that these people were still at the retreat from the evening before and were attempting to internalize their own experiences from the ayahuasca. Also many were not from the UK and did not speak proficient English.

It’s a fair disclaimer to make by saying that Ayahuasca will show you what you need to see, not necessarily what you wish to see.
It is a reflection of your own consciousness and if you need to see something negative relating to your behavioral patterns or lifestyle, then Ayahuasca will do this for you, Just like a tough love.

All I knew personally was that the week or so leading up to the retreat, I was feeling, calm, collected and humorously optimistic – at one with myself. I somehow already knew all would be fine.

We headed into the main hall area where the ceremonies were to take place and we were all told to find and claim a single mattress for the weekend, which were lined up in rows of approximately 20, with single white bedding sheets on.
It wasn’t glamorous, but adequate and what facilities lacked, views from the mountains top just outside of our windows, made up for.

Quickly I believe we all switched into an relaxed sense of survival mode, and did what was necessary to accommodate ourselves surrounding the such laid back, peaceful vibe coming from everybody.

It was as though a big family had found each other again, in surroundings of unbelievable beauty, and just as families can be, it was as though each of us had never left in the first place. I had insight into a glimpse of hope for the human race.
My anticipations were building as the evening drew in and I just wanted to know how things would all be. Yet the more I asked people softly of their experiences, the more I quickly learned there was not a ‘one answer fits all.’
This was to be my night and my night alone.

Across the weekend we were met with characters of incredible wisdom and inner beauty, such as the leading Shaman ‘Taita Juan Jamioy’ and who I believe was one of the lead facilitators, Alberto Jose Varela, whose book “From prison, From my new found freedom” each of us left with a copy of.

These characters were floating around from time to time to approach and gain many insights from.
We had missed the lunch / dinner period for that day and instead had some light snacks like fruit and biscuits along with tea. As I knew I was guaranteed to be purging that evening, (a more than common process of the Ayahuasca rituals) this was fine by me.

The Ayahuasca ceremony started around 7 pm, with us all resting and listening from our mattresses on the floor like little children at story time.

Three facilitators spoke to us from the front in turn; The leading facilitator and sharer of great wisdom – Alberto Varela, who spoke mainly in Spanish. Hugo another very friendly and kind events organizer who spoke mainly in Italian for the natives present and a slightly younger appearing Laura, a well educated Spanish born translator, helping those of us from the UK to understand.

The first hour of ceremony was really about what not to expect from Ayahuasca!
Alberto educated us all about the facts of Ayahuasca, and we were all assured that we would be going on our own reflective, personal and intimate journeys of self-discovery, to wherever we needed to. We were advised to set intentions for the evening, and mine was for clarity and direction.
Once the initiations were done and everyone of all ethnicity understood the formations of the evening, lights were lowered and in place many tea light candles had been positioned and lit throughout the venue.

milan

We could see the vast beauty of night life across Milan from the easily accessable windows.
We were each handed our necessities – A plastic bag to purge the ayahuasca in to and tissues to accommodate the purging.

One of the facilitators came around to each of us and placed some Ayahuasca drops into our palms for rubbing in and smearing across our nasal area and/or back of neck. This was followed after the essential oil water in small tea cups we were given in order to help aid in the drinking of the Ayahuasca as well as general well being.
Drinking this water alone, put me in a space of reflection and wonder.

All the while it became apparent to me, the sacredness of Ayahuasca ceremonies. Even in a place unnatural to Ayahuasca, such as Italy. It wasn’t something we were to drink quickly and get ‘high’ from, but a journey, a process, an initiation of consciousness and all the while I remained very calm and reflective, absorbing all there was to take in.

We were then asked to queue around the mattresses in order to each receive Tobacco from the shaman Taita Juan. We received it by having it blown quite rapidly, directly into each nostril, one after the other.
For me this was one of the most difficult parts of the ceremony, It stung and smelt unwelcoming, unlike the sometimes sweet smell of a rolling tobacco and I couldn’t help but swallow some. This made us all instantly sneeze and eyes watered.

Nevertheless we were told it was necessary to help aid with the ayahuasca.
As I understand, Tobacco in some cultures is seen as representing the spirit.

We then returned to our mattresses to meditate on the experience thus far, set our intentions and wait a little further for the ayahuasca to be laid out for each of us.
I couldn’t help but peep a little through a tiny crack in my left eye to watch shaman, Taita from a small distance, ritualistically blessing and initiating the ayahuasca being placed out in small plastic cups for us. Smoke and sage were blown over them as to ward away any negative spirits or energy and Taita sung rituals, all the while wafting dried leaves over the table where the ayahuasca rested. It was truly, both sacred and magical to witness.

Once this was achieved, a silence was laid to rest around the main hall where we were. We were then called up to queue for the Ayahuasca initial dosage.

I remember feeling ready, but as though I was going into a battle prepared – unknowing of the opposition.
I was sure from the gut feelings I had had all week leading up to the retreat that somehow things would all be fine, but that did not stop the atmosphere from penetrating these feelings a little.

I knew this would go exactly how it must and I was Okay with that.
Quietness surrounded the room of the many people lining up to receive the first intake of the Ayahuasca dose. The ceremony had most definitely begun!

As I reached the table where the shaman stood handing out the Ayahuasca, I looked at the cup handed to me with the ayahuasca in, Similar to a small opague plastic party or even medicine cup, it was just shy of half full.

I thanked shaman Taita, stepped aside and drunk it down in a poor first attempt. Part of me wanted to taste the ayahuasca and it wasn’t pleasing to say the least.

Ayahuasca tastes like nothing I have ever experienced before. To describe it I will go off my initial reactions, which, if you were to imagine drinking a cup of electrical copper wires still with energy running through them…It had a real twang to it, Not that I felt anything particularly about the mixture, just a rather vile, unusual cold metallic taste to it, a dark dark taste, thick but smooth in texture – It meant business.

We all went straight back to our mattresses to get comfortable in meditative positions where we were advised to assume upright postures with eyes closed, much like meditation, in order to go inwards in ourselves.

Nothing seemed to happen at all for the first 10 – 15 minutes, 20 – 25 minutes even. After about 25-30 minutes the lady two mattresses down from me had her first violent purge, sicking her ayahuasca up into her given bag. I didn’t allow this to affect or phase me in any way as I had prepared mentally, instead it helped me focus more. I did not feel sick yet, not remotely, I could just feel the weight of the Ayahuasca in my stomach, and I knew that at some point this evening, that would be me also.
45 minutes or so passed with nothing really happening for me.

At this point at least 3 of the group had begun to purge, some sounding slightly demonic as they purged up their ayahuasca portion – (often the point of purging up Ayahuasca is to release blockages and any negative energies.)
An hour passed and still nothing of significance for me. I started to give myself the impression that somehow I had been tricked and that this wasn’t really Ayahuasca that I knew so much about intellectually, yet nothing of experientally – I was wrong.

Approximately an hour and 15 minutes passed and by this time I was laying down with my head propped up by one of my bags. Certain people had fallen asleep at this point and were snoring. (An utter waste of an experience I thought)
Purging assumed across the hall from many individuals. The shaman in the background played all kinds of native instruments, provoking natural yet eery sounds and providing sacred imagery into ones mind. I understood by this point how this music could be so important in helping to facilitate a full trance, Indeed from the weekend, I believe it was the main component of the experiences.

It was around this time that I reached out to tell a nearby facilitator how I wasn’t particularly feeling any different. He assured me that the second ‘booster’ dose was not long away.
Soon after my comments, and as if the Ayahuasca was out to prove me wrong, I felt a rush from the depth of my stomach, bringing up the ayahuasca. I purged most of what I had taken quite violently and felt immediately relieved.

The interesting thing about Ayahuasca in my experience, is that you only really experience it once you have begun purging it out. As if it activates it in some way. At least I did!
I laid back down and closed my eyes. The Ayahuasca begun to show me a different reality. Darkness surrounded me followed by spirals and then what appeared to be zig-zag lines across my vision, but tunnel like, escorting me out and away. I was travelling forwards in to my visions and being taken further outwards.

zig

What I understood about ayahuasca from the weekend is that it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but yourself. I could tell you all about the amazing astrological, geometrical and metaphysical imagery I experienced during the Ayahuasca sessions, but what would be the real point of that?

It would be like telling you about a fantastic movie that you need to see, and then never getting round to actually seeing it…

What I also learned, is that Ayahuasca gives the individual as personal an experience as the dosage itself. And this indeed transcends time and space.
You are in fact, taken to the depths of your own reality, the darkness and right back up and through to the lightest of light and holiness.

Ayahuasca is most definitely a spiritual experience of great depths and grandeur, and I met with an entity similar to that of Christ or the godhead, through massive cathedral type structures. It was beautiful, serene and truly inviting.

heavenly-cathedral-john-bartosik

What stuck out the most from the experience of the weekend, was how you can be surrounded by a seemingly apparent hell – individuals having their very own deep and dark experiences, crying out, purging and breathing heavy, Yet be at absolute peace with your surroundings. I believe this to be my biggest lesson from the Ayahuasca retreat.
That no matter what goes on around us externally, there is always, under any circumstance, the capacity for inner peace and self-love. In fact, it’s the only truth of the matter.

The highlight of the evening came from the same lady just two mattresses away from me. This particular woman had purged the most out of anyone I had noticed, or indeed been drawn to notice.
She purged from around 30 minutes in, violently and intermittently, through until the option for a second booster dosage of ayahuasca, around 1 hour and 45 minutes in to the ceremony.

After the majority of her purging she settled down to assume a resting position. Not to be fooled by this, the sounds and noises she then produced were non-stop.
She begun by laughing uncontrollably – the kind of laughter one might produce when they are in fact high on some chemical substance, only with the emotional signatures of freedom and triumph!

It was as though the woman had received laughing gas as well as Ayahuasca, she laughed for her life, The purging had completely cleansed her spirit!

She laughed so much that I found myself soon joining in, followed by my tutor nearby, followed by practically everyone in the room simultaneously.

It was so very infectious, and necessary at this point of the evening I believe. It helped shed some of the darkness surrounding the ceremony, some of the unknowing into the abyss of ones psyche. We were all still quite aware of our surroundings, Just on another level.

After the second booster, which tasted equally as bad as the first, I resumed position on my mattress. I was met by visions of extraordinary complexity and I cannot explain them with any sense of justice or capacity in my sober, ‘mind’ state.
It was “Other-worldly” I was in the cosmos somewhere on vacation, swimming in Source.

I did most definitely learn personal lessons from the ayahuasca that weekend, lessons I won’t be disclosing here, but I do hope it sparks any readers imagination to participate in a ceremony once they feel ready.

Ayahuasca is not a recreational medicine/drug, nor should it ever be treated as such. It is not something to be done at weekends with friends, It is a most sacred and ceremonial medicine and it deserves the utmost respect and reverence.

If it were not for the presence of an experienced shaman, I would not have been there myself either.

Another interesting thing with Ayahuasca, is that it is typically taken late in the evening. So it can last most of the duration of the night and into the early hours of the morning. Really it keeps going, much like a journey, but you are free to sleep when required, it is up to your discretion.

The next day on awakening you feel good, Cleansed and light, clearer. There is a slight sense of a hangover but not like that of an alcohol induced hangover. It is just a slight feeling of physical drainage, and that’s it. You have an appetite and are quite happy to discuss your experiences together.

As a hypnotherapist and studying psychotherapist, I am intrigued by the human psyche and it’s capacity for great and needless suffering when encased in by itself from a sense of greater consciousness and awareness.

I can now easily vouch for what author Graham Hancock comments when describing Ayahuasca – “Like 20 years of psychotherapy, in one session.”

Through Ayahuasca you meet yourself. In all your splendor as well as your own personal hell, demons and even death scenarios in some cases.

This is to teach you about yourself, in the most intimate of ways.

Ask yourself; Is life easy? Of course not! But is it worth it, necessary? Of course it is!
– Ayahuasca is much the same.

I write about my experiences with ayahuasca here for you to read in the hope that the western world as a whole, suffering from a great lack of consciousness and compassion, liberation and true inner healing, will educate itself on the absolutely undeniable healing capabilities of Mother Ayahuasca.
Capabilities beyond that of any human intervention.

We live in times of monumental and rapid change and for many it is a time of great suffering. But in the greatest of darkness always comes the greatest of light, and that is what I believe ayahuasca is doing now for the people of the west and the world.

It is stepping out of the jungle and healing us back to nature, aiding in our next evolutionary steps, of compassion and oneness.

The Shamans of the amazon reflect on the issues of our western society, with materialism, consumerism greed and suffering, and they summarize by simply saying that we have ‘Severed our connection with spirit.’ – after my weekend in the Alps, I couldn’t agree more.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami

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Further links:

Suraya came to a retreat on a wheelchair and left walking on her own

Musician Sting talks about his only real religious experience whilst using Ayahuasca

One of the many short videos of Graham Hancock detailing his Ayahuasca encounters

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