Ayahuasca (sometimes spelled Iawaska) is all over the internet with celebrities and other people of influence talking about their experiences. It’s the macarena of the 2020’s and some people are doing it well and others, well, maybe it’s not the best dance move.
San Francisco and the Bay Area, along with other cities and states that have moved towards decriminalizing these medicines (thanks in large part to the Decriminalize Nature organization) have become destination spots for experiencing the once illicit maligned “psychedelics.”
The good news is that science has proven that these medicines are not just some woo-woo placebo, but the hard news is that much has been lost as Psilocybin, Cannabis, and other ancient and sacred plant medicines have become the cool edgy thing to be “into.”
Now you can type in “ayahuasca retreat bay area,” and choose which sort of Entheogenic vacation you’d like to have. High end plant medicine, complete with shamanic (what an overused and somewhat meaningless word now) soul retrieval all in the comfort of a resort spa. Or you can sit in someone’s home, like ours, with community members, make a prayer for your life, and experience the modern day version of village healing: humble, practical, yet beautiful and potent.
So, how do you know if working with Ayahuasca is for you?
The first thing to recognize is that Ayahuasca is POWERFUL, like tornado season in Oklahoma, like a megatsunami. And if you are only wanting to experience it because you heard Joe Rogan or Gwyneth Paltrow talking about it on a podcast, then I’d take a moment to pause.
Would you get eye surgery if you didn’t need it? No? Then don’t work with powerful psychoactive medicines if you don’t feel the genuine call.
At best, if you come into an Ayahuasca, or any other sort of conscious-altering experience without a clear call and intention, you’re likely to feel nothing (because you’re not ready and the medicine is being merciful) or you’ll get tumbled like a dryer full of rocks. At worst, it can break open some things that won’t ever go back to where they were before. That’s not to say that everyone who works with Ayahuasca or other plant medicines without mindfulness and respect will get a disappointing or ass-kicking experience, but there are risks, and it’s good to know what they are.
Working with sacred plant medicine because you think it’s cool and everyone else is doing it is like waving a red cloth at a raging bull.
It’s the ego that will get worked over, and if your ego is the only thing seeking the experience, it’s going to get really painful. Best to do some deep preparation and get some education about it before jumping in.
These medicines can offer profound, life long healing and transformation and deserve respect and to be approached with reverence. The mentality that has developed from the colonial influence of divide and conquer, seeking to serve one’s own personal interests, thrill-seeking, ego-boosting, glamorizing sociopathic power, objectifying sacred shamanic practices, and consuming without conscious relationship is definitely what needs to be healed, and these plants are here to help with that, and for your own sake, and for the sustainability and honoring of these traditions, do some diligence, learn about the origins.
The more reverence and respect you give to these plants and your own spiritual journey, the more profound (and safe) your experience will be.
You don’t want to be “that guy” who shows up to the party without manners or awareness of your surroundings.
In 2014, I had been called to serve with a Shipibo tribe in the Amazon to help them with their Ayahuasca ceremonies. It was humbling beyond words, intimidating, and one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I’d been working with Ayahuasca since 2003, and received my Huachuma ministry from Medicine Path Native American Church in early 2013, but had never been called to formally serve in an Ayahuasca ceremony. During that time, Mama Ayahuasca said to me “I’m a big fucking deal, and all anyone gets to prepare is a list of what not to eat and some encouragement to avoid sex and violent images in preparation. There’s so much more that can be done to give the respect I deserve. Help prepare people.”
So I started, right there in the Amazon, to put together all of the things I’d learned over the many years of working with this and other sacred plants and facilitating transformational ceremonies, to give as much preparation, including building a conscious relationship with the plants, the people, and the land as possible, and I started to bring my own groups to heal.
Since then, I started Living Wisdom which provides all sorts of experiences to help remember the sacred and cultivate a sovereign and empowered relationship with the Holy, whether it’s through Entheogens / Sacred Medicine or not. And now we provide ceremonies that require deep preparation so that those who participate get the deep healing that is founded in a conscious and sacred approach to this work.
So, if you are feeling the call and are open to stepping into the Unknown and surrendering to the profound power that is beyond words, then Ayahuasca may be the perfect medicine for you. If, however, you are looking to just check something off your “bucket list,” start with skydiving or a Vipassana retreat.
And, make sure that your medicine facilitators are not only knowledgable, but capable of supporting you should something come up in your experience that rocks your world. (Stay tuned for more about more about picking a safe and sacred container and experienced facilitators).
You are always welcome to join us for our free monthly Entheogen (which means Generating God Within) Preparation and Integration Support Circles. We are here for you, and passionate about helping you to do deep healing that is safe and sacred.
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