You've heard the life-changing stories, you've done the research, and you're convinced.
You're excited, you're nervous, and maybe you're even a little scared.
But you've decided. You're in. You're ready for an ayahuasca retreat.
Awesome, we are excited for you. If you approach this correctly, this could represent a massive turning point in your life.
Now, let's take a bit of a step back. An ayahuasca retreat is not REALLY what you are looking for.
What you probably want is improvements to your quality of life:
If these are the things you're looking for, then you're in the right place.
In this context, we would encourage you to think of an ayahuasca retreat as a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals. With the right guidance, preparation, and integration, an ayahuasca retreat can provide invaluable healing, insights, and lessons. However, much more than “just a retreat” is required to help you to realize and sustain its transformational benefits.
In a nutshell, here is what the science tells us about the benefits of ayahuasca and plant medicine more broadly:
If you consider the results of this research, it makes perfect sense. If there was a miracle cure that fixed all our problems, we would be robbed of self-determination in our evolution.
It would be like winning a prize for a marathon you didn't run - an empty, tasteless victory.
So ayahuasca can help us realize our joyous nature and deepen our spiritual connection, but it cannot and does not do the mental and emotional work for us. That is our path to walk, our work to be done in this life.
There are now hundreds of thousands of people out there partaking in plant medicine ceremonies and skipping the mental and emotional work. The result is that the overwhelming majority are missing out on the deeper breakthroughs and healing benefits that are possible.
They're having psychedelic experiences, rather than transformational experiences.
If this resonates with you, and you're interested to get the most out of your ayahuasca retreat and working with plant medicine, then read on.
This article has been split in to three parts, based upon where you are in your journey:
This section provides practical guidance to help you make quality decisions - it does not provide specific instruction on preparation, the ayahuasca diet, integration, etc. Your guide and retreat center will do that with you.
Here's the truth: we all have mental and emotional blind spots. If you didn't have any, it's unlikely that you would be considering an ayahuasca retreat. But we already discussed that ayahuasca isn't necessarily going to help you identify your mental and emotional blind spots or "do the work" for you, so, what to do?
You need guidance. A coach or therapist who has guided hundreds or thousands of clients through a successful transformation with plant medicine. Understanding that you can significantly benefit from this outside support is of fundamental importance, as it opens you up to accepting outside help.
If you understand and agree with this, we would recommend anchoring this in your mind by saying the following out loud: "I will find a qualified guide to help me with my ayahuasca preparation and integration". Yes, seriously.
Regardless of whether this is your first retreat or tenth retreat, you will be breaking new ground. Find a trusted guide. You will be grateful that you did.
Take your time, don't rush.
Have multiple consultations with guides that you feel may be a good fit, and then choose the one that resonates with you best.
Finding the right coaching and/or therapeutic guidance makes all the difference.
A guide will help you do the necessary preparation and integration work before and after a retreat, both of which are fundamental to big breakthroughs and sustaining the benefits.
Here's a few considerations to guide your selection of a prospective guide:
Ok, so you've chosen a guide, someone who you trust, and they are going to help you with mental and emotional work before and after the retreat. Now it's time to choose an ayahuasca retreat - the main event.
Here's a few things that are under-appreciated, and that you will benefit from knowing:
You might be wondering - what the hell is going on here? You’re not alone.
The truth is, with the gap we have between science (proven benefits) and policy (plant medicine not legal), tens of thousands of hopeful people are travelling to visit shamans and mama ayahuasca in the Amazon in legal locations across Central and South America such as Tulum, Costa Rica, the Sacred Valley outside Cusco and Iquitos in Peru, or deep in the Amazon rainforest. The result is a bit of a wild-west, an ayahuasca tourism gold rush.
There is a massive short-supply of healing experts in this field. As demand has sky-rocketed, many perfectly nice, well-intentioned, and yet inexperienced facilitators are now hosting retreats.
Here's what we would recommend a retreat participant to consider:
Ok, so you'd like some guidance to help you decide whether an ayahuasca journey is right for you. Here is what we would recommend:
Here's a few categories of potential benefits to think about / read about:
As ayahuasca and other plant medicine grows in popularity, it is important that you don't get sucked up in the excitement and participate in a retreat because you've heard it's transformative, or because others recommend it.
Ask yourself why? Be clear on why you would like to attend a retreat.
Invest the time and energy to do your own research and develop your own healing, growth, and spiritual motivations. If you do decide to attend a retreat, this will prove a valuable input to your preparation process.
We highly recommend that you read about the challenges that can arise during an ayahuasca retreat - you can read more about the potential challenges the ayahuasca experience in a more in-depth post HERE.
Now that you have your own rational reasons for attending a retreat, and understand the potential healing benefits and challenges, it's time to tap into your intuition.
From what you've seen, heard, and read, what do you feel? Do you feel this is something that is right for you? Is now the time? If so, why? Why not? Listen to your intuition.
Many people claim that mother ayahuasca medicine "called to them", and that circumstances aligned guiding them to attend a retreat.
Once you've developed your motivations and developed a view on whether or not an ayahuasca retreat is right for you, we would recommend finding an expert to speak with ask them if/how a retreat can help you achieve your goals, and to have a conversation about your readiness – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
You'd like to know more about the ayahuasca experience: the ayahuasca vine, the ayahuasca brew, the ayahuasca ceremony, ayahuasca healing, what a shaman is, and what generally happens at an ayahuasca retreat center.
Ayahuasca is generally a reference to the ayahuasca tea, brewed from the ayahuasca vine (banisteriopsis caapi vine), and the chacruna plant (psychotria viridis). Both of these medicinal plant grow in the Amazon rainforest.
Naturally, ayahuasca can also be a reference to the ayahuasca vine itself.
In the context of ayahuasca, a shaman or “one who knows” is a spiritual practitioner able to channel and direct energies for the purpose of healing, often while in an altered state of consciousness.
Ayahuasca shamanism has a broad range of traditions throughout Central and South America, predominantly centered around the Amazon basin, including:
The Shipibo shaman tradition of Peru is one of the better-known, with many of their shamans travelling internationally for retreats and ayahuasca ceremonies.
An ayahuasca ceremony is typically led by a shaman or experienced practitioner. While each tradition has its own rituals, a healing ceremony generally brings together a group of people in a circle or semi-circle to drink the ayahuasca brew.
After 30-40 minutes, it is common for feelings of nausea to set in, and powerful visions begin, leading participants on healing journeys into the spirit world. Physical purging is common, and the experiences themselves can vary, from the euphoric to the terrifying, into the light and into the dark. We often relive powerful memories to help us understand and heal our past, receive salient insights to improve our future, and to connect to ourselves, mother earth, and the universe more broadly in a deep and meaningful way.
To read a more detailed account of the challenges and experiences of an ayahuasca ceremony, you can read more HERE.
If you’re looking for a spiritual retreat, ayahuasca retreats are certainly amongst the most powerful. They are generally hosted in beautiful and quiet locations, a sort of “holistic sanctuary” away from the buzz of everyday life.
There is a strict dieta (not to be confused with a master plant diet) to be followed two weeks prior to such a retreat, whereby we must abstain from:
For those experienced with ayahuasca, it’s common to begin preparation even months ahead of their retreats – doing more meditation, yoga, and being more conscious about the foods they eat.
During ayahuasca retreats, 3 ayahuasca ceremonies are typical over the course of a week. Between ceremonies, there is often a variety of healing modalities on offer similar to a yoga retreat – yoga sessions, breathwork, meditation, sound healing, etc.
Some ayahuasca retreats also incorporate other plant medicines, most commonly San Pedro. San Pedro is a cactus found throughout Central and South America, and known for it’s heart-opening properties. You can read more about San Pedro HERE.
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