ad astra metagrrl at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 22 13:39:03 EST 2003


I thought some people here might be interested to read
about an ayahuasca retreat I attended last month.  My
motivation was personal and spiritual growth, but I
think ayahuasca would be helpful for dealing with
addictions as well.  For me ayahuasca and iboga seem
to be playing on the same team - they both show me
whatever I need to deal with, in no uncertain terms. 
Frequently unpleasant and difficult, but ultimately
rewarding and useful.  Anyway, here is my report:

Where I live, it is easy to get the materials to make
ayahuasca, the potent plant based brew used by
indigenous people in the amazon for millenia for
healing and spirit journeys. However, I wanted to go
closer to the source for my introduction to this plant
teacher, so recently I travelled with two close
friends to attend an ayahuasca retreat in Peru. 

The reatreat took place at the Corto Maltés Amazonia
Lodge, on the banks of the Madre de Dios river. We
were surrounded by the amazon rain forest, with its
amazing diversity of plant and animal life. Being away
from the stress and distractions of modern life was
healing in itself and definitely enhanced the
experience. There were no media available during the
retreat, and not knowing what was happening in the
outside world helped me to realize that everything
important was happening right there – it was the inner
work we were doing that really mattered. 

The ayahuasca experience itself is hard to describe.
It felt something like dreaming or dying. The
ayahuasca session is a crucible in which psychological
and spiritual processes occur at a much greater level
of intensity than is typical in everyday life,
enabling one to learn rapidly and deeply about life,
mind, relationships and spirit. 

Members of the group reported a wide variety of
experiences. Some people had visions, for others the
trip mostly involved their thought processes or
emotions. One person felt she was dying, surrounded by
white light, her body dissolving into nothingness.
Another reported feeling enlightened in the present
moment, for the first time – after years of serious
Zen meditation. A few people battled inner demons in
one way or another. One person felt that ayahuasca was
essentially an artificial alteration of his
perceptions, though most people felt that ayahuasca
revealed deeper truths about life. Each person had a
unique experience, in fact each session for each
person was unique. 

We did three sessions altogether. Each time we would
gather in the dining area of the retreat center, with
a pillow, blanket, water, and whatever else we would
need for the overnight session, then we would walk
together down a dark path into the forest, lit by
small torches about every two to three meters. We
gathered in a special building used only for ayahuasca
sessions. Diego, the leader of the group, would say
some prayers, and then one by one we would go to him
to receive the medicine. When the ayahuasca started to
take effect, Diego would begin to chant and play his
guitar. His beautiful chanting was very soothing and
centering, and was valuable and helpful part of the

For me ayahuasca brought up whatever I needed to
experience in the present moment. I found it to be a
very harsh teacher. Whenever I tried to resist what
was being shown to me, the experience would become
more intense and unpleasant – one of the central
lessons for me is that it is better to let go, to
surrender to the experience. 

Some concepts that I had understood in an abstract way
I experienced at a much deeper level. One of these
concepts is impermanence. I had grasped that concept
on a superficial intellectual level, but didn’t really
understand it. During my first and third ayahuasca
sessions, I entered into states of intense suffering
that I was absolutely convinced would never end – even
death would not release me. Yet those states did pass.

At another point I found myself spontaneously
breathing out love into the world. It was a subtle
experience but very distinct. This is something I had
practiced in the past, but which I hadn’t really felt
before. What had been an intellectual exercise before
became an experiential reality during the ayahuasca
session. Since then I’ve occasionally been able to
practice this technique and genuinely feel it. 

Ayahuasca also helped me to see that a great deal of
what I experience is a projection of my mind, which
interferes with my ability to see the world – inner or
outer - as it is. I had read and thought about being
centered and experiencing the moment as it is, without
trying to grasp or resist. Under the influence of
ayahuasca, this quality of mind is very important, and
I believe I am a little better at being that way now. 

In the second session one of my friends was having a
very intense, difficult time, and at one point all of
us gathered around her and were chanting to her. It
felt wonderful to be part of a circle of caring,
giving love and attention to a friend in need. During
the first session I had a difficult time, and others
helped me; now I found myself on the other side of
that equation and it felt wonderful to take that role
for her. 

During the third experience, when I was suffering
intensely regarding karma from past actions -
basically feeling emotions I needed to feel but had
always avoided - I believe I was "burning karma" at
that time, doing some of the suffering I needed to do.
I feel a bit clearer now, as if my karmic load has
lightened a bit. 

No matter how difficult the session was, when the
effects started to wear off – when I was no longer
tripping – I felt happy and centered. So glad to be
alive, to breathe, to be in this space with people I
love. This, for me, is one of the most wonderful
aspects of the ayahuasca experience. First I go
through the difficult part, then I feel wonderful –
it’s the exact opposite of taking a drug, feeling good
for a while, followed by some sort of hangover. 

It seems to me that the best way to do ayahuasca is in
this sort of ritual setting. The medicine can teach a
lot about relationships, and how to give and receive
love. Sharing the experience with my fellow travelers
afterwards was a very important part of the process.
The chanting and singing was an important part of it
and the opening and closing of the ceremony helped to
put the experience in context. 

I believe that ayahuasca, used properly, can be a
catalyst to accelerate personal and spiritual growth.
You still have to go through your process, but this
medicine can speed things up. It shows you what you
need to work on and puts you in a state where you can
do some intense learning. Ayahuasca, I feel, works
very well in the context of an ongoing spiritual
practice such as meditation. 

I would recommend the ayahuasca experience to anyone
who is seriously interested in spiritual or
psychological work and is attracted to altered states.
More information about the particular retreat that I
attended may be found at

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