In late October I fulfilled one of my goals for 2022 and I went on Ayahuasca Retreat in Peru. In this article I will try to briefly summarize what is Ayahuasca, how did the jungle retreat look like and my personal opinion and recommendations.
What is Ayahuasca and Why is so Controversial?
According to Wikipedia: it is a South American psychoactive brewed drink traditionally used both socially and as a ceremonial or shamanic spiritual medicine among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin. Recently, more and more tourists coming to South America to try out what Ayahuasca offers. Ayahuasca can be find in Peru, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador and Colombia.
Evidence of ayahuasca use dates back 1,000 years, but after the Spanish conquest of America in the 16th century, the traditional drink described it as “the work of the devil”. There are more reasons for a consumption of Ayahuasca, but the most common ones are healing, rituals and connection and deeper understandig of the nature. If you have never visited and interacted with indigenous people, it might be quite hard to understand this essence. Indigenous people used to (and some still do) live in very close relationship to nature. Currently, I am reading a book Shaman, healer, sage where it is nicely described how locals are able to read, communicate and transform into animals.
The consumption of Ayahuasca is quite controversial, especially in Europe. Use and spread of the plant is considered in many states illegal (on the same level as any other drugs) and the punishments are very strict and high including years of imprisonment.
What scares a lot of people are the effects. Effects can be very different – visuals, laught, relief, vomitting, diarrhea, sweating, dizziness, relaxation… As you can see this is very diverse. Especially the vomitting is what discourage so many people. But there is another way to see it. Many shamans consider this a purging process and an essential part of the experience, representing the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one’s lifeit
My Jungle Retreat
I have spent 8 nights in the jungle close to Puerto Maldonado, in Peru in Novalis center. The retreat includes the transportation there and back, food, ceremonies and accomodation in beautiful treehouses. The standart price is 1000 USD. The location was very wild, but well-maintaned at the same time. The food was local and very simple, as there was no electricity and the air was hot, we have only eaten fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs and legumes. This diet was actually needed as a preparation for the Ayahuasca ceremonies. The essential part of the ceremonies is a diet, which (in the best scenario) should be held 3-4 weeks before the ceremony and few weeks after. The diet allows unprocessed food, no alcohol, no diary products as well as other psychological aspects, such as break from social media, avoiding crowded spaces, not watching TV and also avoiding sex.
No electricity, no signal, no internet, for some this might sound as a challenging task and indeed it was :-) However, it was a unique experience and I don’t know when we have an opportunity to really disconnect for more than a week. It gave a lot of time to talks to other fellow ceremony buddies, to do journalling, exercising or relaxing. I have spent nearly half of my retreat sleeping.
During the 8 days in the jungle, I participated in 4 ceremonies. The ceremony is alwas in the night, starting at 8 pm and ending after midnight. In my case, I felt the ayahuasca long hours after the ceremony officially finished. Shamans often call the ayahuasca ‘medicine’. When you feel the ‘medicine’ it does not let you sleep. The day after ceremony we had a free day to rest and discussed what we have seen and experience during the ceremony. The day after we had a ceremony again. Basically, the schedule was like this: ceremony – free day- ceremony – free day and so on.
This might sound a lot, very often people do only one ceremony of ayahuasca. In my opinion, 1 ceremony is more like to try out and 4 ceremonies are a part of spiritual journey. It was definitely life changing opportunity to me. (I feel like) I understood more the power of universe and the bigger picture of us being on this planet.
My Thoughts About Ayahuasca
Before I will go into details, my summary is: I would (and I will for sure) do Ayahuasca again.
I have never been into similar things, in fact I was rather scared or I even looked at similar things with a bit of irony and scepticism. However, spending so much time in South America has thought me that in our life we have also another layer than just mind and body. Spirit. I discovered it for the first time in 2018 during my first trip in South America, but I was probably not ready to dig deeper.
Ayahuasca is much more than having visions or feeling different. Ayahuasca should be approached with enormous respect and love. Ayahuasca is in my opinion a gate to nature and to our true self. After my first ceremony I have felt like in the Avatar movie. Do you remember how the avatars connect with their tails? I have felt very similar feelings. Ultimate connection to mother nature. It might sound weird, but I felt that I am a river, I am a tree and I am my ancestors. I have seen, but more importantly I have felt all of this.
Ayahuasca is all about nature and the connection. This sounds all very dreamy, but it can show you very difficult things and you can go through a horrible process. Why? It is a part of healing. Sometimes we need to go though the lows to be able to reach the sky again.
I can not stress enough the importance of choosing the right place. Experienced shaman and save place is a must. Unexperienced shaman can do a lot of damage to you and you should avoid it at any costs. Ask for references and ask people who have already done the ceremony. You might be surprised, but there are some shamans doing ceremonies everywhere. You just need to search, or it will find you eventually. :-)
Honestly, I would not come back again to the place of ceremony. I enjoyed my stay there, I decided for the place also on a friend’s recommendation, but I know there might be other, more authentic places.
This article might be interesting if you consider going on Ayahuasca retreat, trying Ayahuasca for the first time or also if you are simply curious what I tried. It is completely normal that some people will see it as a dangerous and risky business. I respect that opinion and by no means I would be trying to convince you that Ayahuasca is the right choice for you. The most important think is to be open-minded, humble and ready. If you miss even one of the mentioned things, maybe it is not time. And who knows, maybe it never will, that’s completely fine.
I would be very curious to hear your opinion. Have you ever been on similar retreat?