You’ve Googled “Peru ayahuasca retreat” for hours to make sure you will find the best Ayahuasca retreat Peru has to offer. There’s a clear image of yourself at a spiritual retreat center deep in the jungle of Iquitos, sitting with Mother Ayahuasca in the evening and doing yoga in the morning. You can almost feel the spiritual awakening that you’ll receive from the combination of the Amazon rainforest, the plant diet, the shaman, and of course, the sacred medicine. You feel ready, but you want to make sure that you’re prepared. That’s what this guide is for.
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Ayahuasca is a schedule 1 controlled substance in the US and is illegal in most other countries, as are peyote, San Pedro, and other plant medicine.
As a result, Ayahuasca tourism in has exploded, not only in Iquitos and Cusco but all over Peru, Costa Rica, and many other places in Central and South America. It’s not easy to find the most fitting center for your needs with the number of retreat centers there are today.
Choice anxiety aside, the popularity of ayahuasca tourism in Peru and around the world raises many concerns. The local economy continually adjusts to the tourism demands. Traditionally, it is the healer, rather than the patient, who drinks the Ayahuasca. Yet the Western focus is on visions and purging. And so retreat centers catering to tourists offer Ayahuasca ceremonies where each retreat participants drinks the Ayahuasca brew several times per week.
Even more severe are the safety concerns for both tourists and locals. The profitability of selling ayahuasca to foreigners has led to an increase of Ayahuasqueros that haven’t trained appropriately. Typically, the training lasts for at least 8-12 years, if not decades. Yet with increased demand for Ayahuasca ceremonies, practitioners jump into leading ceremonies before they are truly ready. There have been accounts of shamans and guides taking advantage of participants during an ayahuasca retreat, and even cases of death.
These ethical and safety concerns means that the importance of preparation before your Ayahuasca retreat can’t be overstated. You want to fly into Peru knowing your intentions and what you can expect from your retreat center. In short, you want to come prepared before you head off on your healing journey.
You’ve probably thought all about the importance of choosing the right Ayahuasca retreat program. You’ve debated the comfort of a nice bed and air-conditioning versus a more “authentic” experience. You want the best experience possible, and that’s understandable. Here’s how to make the most of your experience, months before getting to your chosen Ayahuasca retreat center.
Something led you to Mother Ayahuasca. There’s something that you hope to achieve through Ayahuasca healing and plant medicine.
Perhaps you want to spark your creativity and find your life purpose. Or you wish to go down a path of self healing. These types of goals are pretty broad. How will you know when you have achieved these goals? What will it look and feel like?
Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Peyote, and other plant medicine are powerful and transformative. That said, they won’t heal or cure you. They are not magic pills that you swallow and wake up complete and content.
What they can do is show you what you need to work with. They can expand your consciousness and show you your power. They can tell you how to achieve healing yourself. Sometimes the messages are clear: “do yoga and work with your body.” Other times, you’ll get a dreamlike vision that you may not know how to interpret. You may be shown patterns and fears.
Working with a guide can help you pinpoint your intentions and goals in this spiritual healing process. You can set general intentions (“I want to be open to whatever Mother Ayahuasca shows me”) and more specific in your work with your guide.
We highly recommend working with a guide before and after your Ayahuasca experience. Your guide serves an entirely different purpose than the Ayahuasca shaman (should you choose to work with a shaman). Keep in mind that many shamans do not speak English. They also won’t be able to get to know you on a deeper level. If you’re taking part in an Ayahuasca retreat, the shaman will have to divide their attention between several participants. There may be a retreat participant with difficult experiences that requires deeper care. The shaman won’t help you pinpoint your intent or integrate your experience after the ceremony.
Ideally, your guide should speak your language both literally and figuratively. You want to feel comfortable enough to share the most vulnerable parts of yourself with them. They will help you understand your intentions for the experience and what you can reasonably expect.
The first guide you talk to may not be the one for you. The time you invest in “shopping around” will be worth it. You’re already taking the time and effort to fly to Peru and spend money on this transformative ayahuasca retreat. You may as well do it right.
Today, you can find Ayahuasca healing centers in many places all over the world: the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, and even in the US. However, people still flock to Peru for the authenticity, history, culture, and talent of the shamans.
While Iquitos is considered the heart of Ayahuasca retreat centers, you’ll find centers all over Peru, with Cusco being an additional popular location. Some centers are deep in the Amazon jungle, close to the city of Cusco, or near the Sacred Valley.
Location, price, amenities, and of course, the shamans are all essential considerations in choosing your retreat center. Some retreat centers offer a San Pedro ceremony in addition to Ayahuasca or work with Coca leaf or another medicinal plant. Yoga, guided meditations, steam baths, and massage may also be on offer. Some centers offer longer journeys of several weeks.
We have a list of the 10 best Peru Ayahuasca retreat centers that take all these considerations into account and help you make this critical choice.
Your Ayahuasca retreat center will let you know how which plant diet to follow and for how long. Typically, you’ll be asked to refrain from salt, sugar, oil, red meat, and sexual activity.
While the Ayahuasca center you attend may ask you to follow this diet for two weeks, one week, or even just a few days, you can choose to follow it for a longer time in months and weeks building up to the ceremony. Adding practices like meditation, yoga, and breathwork can also help you prepare your body and mind for the deep spiritual healing you are about to undertake. Spend time with Mother Nature and take in what she’s saying and bringing up in you.
Most articles about Ayahuasca will focus solely on this part of the Ayahuasca journey. You can find reviews online where people talk about the Ayahuasca center they’ve visited deep in the jungle. They’ll describe Pucallpa, Peru, and the ayahuasca diet. They’ll rave about the profound healing they’ve experienced and all the benefits they see in their life. Perhaps they’ll explain how Ayahuasca brew is actually composed of two plants: the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine (commonly known as the Ayahuasca vine) and the Psychotria Viridis shrub.
What no article can tell you is how your own Ayahuasca experience will look and feel. The Ayahuasca ceremony may feel like it’s the main event, but really, it’s only part of the process.
Remember: more isn’t always better. You can choose to sit several ceremonies out. Let yourself process your experience before throwing yourself into the next one. Consult with your guide and journal about your feelings. Trust yourself, Mother Ayahuasca, and the healing process.
You’ll have a lot to process from your Ayahuasca ceremony. While many people leave Peru feeling awe, optimistic, or even bliss, others experience more complicated feelings.
Scary visions, repressed memories, and buried emotions can all appear during the Ayahuasca ceremony. Some feel that the ceremony did not live up to their expectations or left feeling worse than they came in.
In this phase, you become your own healer. Ideally, you’ll have a guide to work with as you work to understand what came up during the ceremony and how to appropriately integrate the lessons into your daily life. Journaling, yoga, and meditation can be powerful tools to work with during this time. Try to connect to Mother Earth, who will support you. Spend time in nature. Notice your desire to use old coping mechanisms, but try not to engage. Your ego will try to turn to what feels familiar. This is just part of the healing process. Trust that the Ayahuasca medicine, nature, and your own inner wisdom will work together and that you are right where you need to be.
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