After I first tried Ayahuasca in Ibiza a couple of years ago, I knew it was something I wanted to explore more deeply, so earlier this year when I was travelling in Peru, I headed deep into the jungle to undergo traditional Ayahuasca ceremonies with a group of shaman. The experience was intense – a series of epiphanies and awakenings, a feeling of universal consciousness and so much peace and love – and for me, so worth it.
Centro de Medicinas Ancestrales is the real deal – a typical ‘maloca’ in the jungle designed for people to undergo a two-week medicinal program under the guidance of shaman. You need to prepare your mind and cleanse your body in the lead up to the experience. I had to give up sugar, salt and alcohol and not have sex for two weeks prior to my arrival. It’s not that complicated when you’re committed to the experience, and I am quite healthy and clean living in general, so I didn’t find it difficult, but it’s definitely not as simple as turning up and drinking the tea.
Ayhuasca is a brew made from plants and vines found in the jungle and has been used as a spiritual medicine for thousands of years. It has a psychoactive compound, that causes hallucinations and visions – always in a reflective way, not recreationally. Some people say the tea tastes disgusting, but I quite liked it! The aim with a two-week experience like this is to find your level of tolerance – you learn how much to ingest to arrive at the point consciousness. You drink the tea – which is brewed by one of the shaman each day – while there is chanting going on around you. There are other people there, but you are all on your own individual journeys.
I did 11 Ayahuasca ceremonies in 15 days and each one was different to the last. It depends on your state of mind on the day. I worked with different shaman, both men and women, on different days and found the strength of the Ayahuasca to be different with each new shaman – with the main ‘father’ shaman, I barely needed to drink any it was so intense, yet with some others I needed to drink more as the quality had changed. I found that my body felt ok (although sometimes it was difficult to walk), but the experience was very intense on my mind. Good and bad feelings would come on the same day, and every day was so different. It really depends on your mind.
On the day of my last ceremony, I knew inside me that I’d reached the end of my journey. I hadn’t been having visions for a few days and I told the shaman this as I took the first cup, and again I didn’t experience any visions as I’d expected, he told me to drink more and so I went for a second cup… then I fell asleep and when I opened my eyes, everyone had left! I was a little scared, and I started having a LOT of visions but then I realised there was no reason to be frightened. I tried to control my breath, like in yoga, but it wasn’t helpful at all – you really have to surrender to the medicine.
When I finally decided to release myself, all the tension dropped away from my body and everything I was seeing was in bright, bright light. It was amazing – there was no concept of time, although you’re fully aware of where you are, and it was like there were thousands of beautiful fireflies dancing around me everywhere. I truly felt I was in contact with god – or some universal consciousness. Everything was so peaceful and I felt filled with love, after feeling like I’d been in hell. Afterwards, I felt so cleansed and pure.
I would highly recommend anyone seeking such an experience to try it – under the proper supervision of course. While it’s very different to the physical practice of yoga, it’s another form of spiritual practice and a way of working on yourself and your self-awareness.