Your soul is calling. You’ve done your research, you’ve heard the stories, and you’ve decided that you’re ready for a life-changing ayahuasca retreat.
But how on earth do you choose “the right one”? There’s so many, and unhelpfully, they’re all rated as 5-stars on the retreat aggregator websites. What to do?
1. Take your time, don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t rush your selection. Who you decide to work with could be amongst the most important decisions of your life.
2. Recommendations from friends can be helpful, however, ask yourself whether you’ve seen a true transformation in their character and in their lives, or whether they had a profound experience, but they have otherwise stayed the same. One indicates a temporary elevation of consciousness, the other indicates a sustained elevation.
3. Don’t look for the most convenient experience. Done right, this will be a major milestone for you. Our recommendation would be to take a week (or two) for an immersive experience away from your everyday life. Disconnect so you can reconnect, and emerge confidently as the new you. If at all possible, don’t drive after work on a Friday for a weekend retreat. You and this work are more sacred than that.
4. Consider the context you’d be most comfortable in:
a. Legal, or underground? Particularly important if things go wrong
b. Attending alone, or with friends?
c. Private experience, or joining a broader group?
d. As part of a church, a shamanic experience, or neo-shamanic?
e. A big group of 20+, or something more intimate?
f. Crisp white sheets, or jungle immersion?
g. Tulum? Costa Rica? Peru? Portugal? Or do you need to be closer to home?
5. Develop your long-list of retreat options. Depending upon where you would like to attend your retreat, develop a long-list of ~10-15 retreat centers, and based upon your criteria and cost-considerations, select the top 3-5 that you are most interested in.
6. Speak to the retreats on your short-list, don’t just hit the “Book Now” button. Unfortunately, there is a short-supply of expert practitioners in the plant medicine world. This ecosystem has absolutely exploded in the past 5 years, from ~15 retreat centers to ~250+ and growing today. That means that most people are relatively new to this work, and still learning. Here are a few questions to ask and things to consider to help you find a good experience when you speak to retreats on your short-list:
a. Did they take the time to understand you, and whether or not you’re a fit for one another, or is it more just “come on down” or “take it or leave it”?
b. Did you resonate with them? Does it feel like they’ve successfully elevated their consciousness and are living in positivity, abundance, and peace? It’s usually best when your guides / facilitators reflect the energy / values that you aspire to.
c. Did you learn something helpful from speaking to them?
d. How seriously do they take preparation and integration? What is provided? Is the experience retreat-centric, or will you be considered specific to your individual needs?
e. What is the group size, and how many people will be facilitating? Most people prefer smaller groups, as the energy is more contained
f. How long have the practitioners been working with plant medicine?
g. What happens during the ceremony? Are they “holding space” or are they also doing healing work? How does the healing work take place?
h. Do you drink medicine just once per ceremony, or can you drink medicine multiple times in a ceremony?
7. Don’t be shy to ask for references. A testimonial is one thing, a conversation with a reference tends to be far more helpful. You are looking to find a place that has guided people through a transformation in their lives, probably with multiple visits to the same retreat center over time. If people aren’t coming back, that says something as well. When speaking to a reference, ask about changes to things like:
a. Relationship to self, motivation for self-care
b. Improved relationships with loved ones
c. Passion for work and ability to create abundance
d. Balance in their lifestyle and inner peace
… these are the signs of a sustained elevation of consciousness.
8. Trust your intuition. It should feel good, it should feel right. If it doesn’t, take your time, and keep looking until it does feel right. The universe is taking care of you, and the right thing will emerge at the right time. No need to force it!
Pssst. Want to know a secret? The key to more breakthroughs and sustaining more benefits from plant medicine is that the work is 80% preparation and integration, 20% on retreat.
The science behind this simple. Published research from 2,267 ayahuasca ceremonies shows that the (potentially) life-changing medicine:
1) Increases our joy for life
2) Deepens our spirituality
3) Does not remove our feelings of negativity & toxicity.
Identifying, understanding, and releasing our mental and emotional blind spots and negativity is what this work is really all about. This is our self-determination in our evolution of consciousness.
Most people overlook this, and by definition, aren't aware of their blind spots, and the medicine doesn't necessarily show you them (as per #3 above).
This is why few are getting the deeper breakthroughs available - those that relate to the ego. Yes, there's a temporary increase in joy for life and felt spiritual connection from the retreat, but then our negative patterns of mind and emotional triggers tend to creep back in the weeks that follow.
If you're ready for a big shift, are coachable, and ready to do the necessary mental and emotional work, apply for a free consultation.
Retreats are easy, change is more complex. Learn more about how to avoid the uncertainty, mistakes, and years of retreats and slow progress by watching our Webinar.
A few things I would tell my best friend (Q&A):
If you're in a position to do so, go private, or join a small group retreat. Typical group size for retreats is 20+, and the chances of significant disruptions to your own experience in such a large group are high.
If you're going to do a group retreat, potentially consider a 5-MeO-DMT retreat first to clear out some of the "low level" emotions, trauma, etc., and then go back and do an ayahuasca retreat later.
Clients tend to like the toad medicine because breakthroughs are more likely, the experience is more powerful, the medicine is fast-acting, the ceremonies are short and typically individualized (made possible on group retreats because they are short), and no bucket is required. Learn more in our 5-MeO-DMT guide.
Find expert guidance to help you with the mental emotional work. Spiritual bypass is common. To get and keep the benefits you're looking for, a retreat is not enough. You need to put in the hard work before and after, and have guidance to identify and help you remove your blockers and blind spots.
Work with experts who reflects your values, are knowledgeable, helpful, and are living in a state which is aligned to what you aspire to - e.g. health, harmony, and abundance.
Consider a non-shamanic experience for your first retreats. Working with plant medicine is fundamentally about reconnecting with our own inherent divinity, and an outside energetic influence is not required to facilitate this process.
There is already a lot happening between mind, body, heart, and spirit when working with plant medicine, and the addition of shamanic chanting can be an intense and overwhelming addition.
There is much to be learned from the ancient and indigenous traditions, but if you're new to the territory, we would encourage you to consider a more contemporary experience. It's a personal decision of course.
Hope that was helpful to you! Aloha