Ayahuasca. What’s that you say?! Probably the biggest ‘trip’ you will ever experience in your life. It takes you inside your mind and body – there’s no escape. You can encounter your worst fears and also euphoric enlightenment.
The Ayahuasca ceremony is ancient shamanic practice in which you drink a ‘medicine’ which comprises of a psychedelic brew of various plant infusions from the Amazon. It contains DMT, which is only usually triggered in your brain when you die. If you master the art of meditation you may also access the higher spiritual dimensions experienced by taking Ayahuasca.
This is just a brief explanation of Ayahuasca. Now for my story.
I went to Peru for a month (Dec-Jan 2014) and knew that Ayahuasca was something I wanted to do. I knew it was a powerful tool to get closer to enlightenment. A friend told me how it had given her invaluable advice about her path in life. She had profound positive shifts after she had taken it.
I can’t tell you enough how this was the case for me too.
It’s VERY intense – it’ll bring out your worse fears and present them to you. There’s no escape. You’re also likely to experience euphoria, love, compassion and peace like never before. Once you’ve taken it, there’s no going back.
I did the ceremony with Etnika’s Healing Centre in Cusco, Peru. They took amazing care of me. The day before, I had to cleanse my body by drinking ten glasses of volcanic salt water. Within two hours, I was empty! (the words eye and needle spring to mind, if you catch my drift!). It was like a colonic irrigation. This prepares you physically for the ceremony. It isn’t a usual procedure with every Shaman but I highly recommend detoxing and being in a physically good way before you do Ayahuasca. The purer you are, the more pleasant your experience.
This is the retreat centre in the South Valley, Cusco.
Where the magic happens!
The day of my ceremony, I was absolutely petrified. We were driven to the retreat centre. There were four of us doing the ceremony that night and the day was spent in silence – meditating and setting our intentions/what we wanted to ask Mother Ayahuasca. I’ve never taken drugs in my life before and I hate being sick, which is almost certain to happen by drinking the Ayahuasca tea. I didn’t know how my body would react.
After speaking to one of our ‘guardians’ at the retreat, I felt much better. She said that there was no pressure. I wasn’t going to be forced into anything. I was, however, reminded of the benefits of doing Ayahuasca and how it is life changing stuff…but you have to find your inner strength and also open your heart. I suppose it’s like anything in life. Live in fear and you go nowhere.
The ceremony started at 8pm. We’d fasted all day. I was tired and emotional but determined to try it and went in with an open heart.
There were sleeping bags and sick buckets in the room but it actually felt quite cosy.
Our room of our ceremony with sleeping bags and sick buckets. Check out the bottle of freshly brewed Ayahuasca.
Our Shaman was a very warm and friendly man. He lit a fire for us and at 8pm, he gave us the nod to go upstairs to the retreat room.
I sat on my sleeping bag (the one at the far end of the picture) and he started the ceremony. We were each given a cup of the Ayahuasca tea. The measurement was dependant on how much our Shaman felt we needed. I drank the brew, which didn’t taste as bad as I thought (although it’s not pleasant either). I was so relieved that I had the courage to take it. I sat back, closed my eyes and relaxed. Darkness fell and for about 20 minutes we were all silent. A couple of the guys started throwing up – but by that time, I could only concentrate on myself as I could feel the brew feeding through my body. I had a sharp headache, then started to get hot.
The next thing I remember was ‘waking up’ and floating into a bright, white light. It was like no place on earth. There were spirals and wave forms all around me. It honestly felt like the crest of Heaven. Euphoric. I felt like I was about to go over the edge and on to ‘the other side’. Then I came back to this life. I freaked out a little. I realised I was experiencing something like never before – a kind of out of body experience.
I started to feel a bit paranoid and worried that I’d never ‘be the same again’. I remember calling out to my Shaman for help. One of the guardians, Joanna, came over. She lay me down and tried to comfort me with mapacho – nicotine free smoke which is said to clear away bad spirits. However, as she turned to look at me, her head turned into a serpent! She muttered something to me and I physically pushed her away (I apologised the next day). Then I heard her say, “remember your meditation Hannah”. I put my hands on my heart, turned my head away from her and found peace again. I saw a white vision of a beautiful woman. She had her eyes closed with a slight smile. To me, she represented ultimate peace and I felt her at the very base of my being. This is something that is hard to describe in words.
Her image stays with me all the time now. Anytime I feel overwhelmed, I put my hands on my heart and she appears.
My Inca Shaman and his wife. The patterns on his outfit are what I saw during my experience.
At one point, I remember hearing the voice of a sassy lady. It was definitely Mother Ayahuasca (Ayahuasca is classed as the Mother Vine of the Amazon and boy do you feel her when you take the brew – there is no escape from this strong, female presence and you can’t avoid her). She literally talked to me. She was trying to make me sick and I didn’t want to. I’m not great at vomiting at the best of times. I felt her do an analysis of my body and she came back with the conclusion that I was physically well. Almost like I’d passed the test in that department. I had a feeling of pride in my strength and commitment to yoga and healthy living. It also confirmed to me that this was the only way for me to achieve optimal health – both physically and mentally. I have to keep my practices sacred forever. I did, however, have tremendous pins and needles in my thighs – almost like the Ayahuasca medicine was breaking something down which was tough and needed relaxing. The cramping was intense but I trusted that it was necessary.
I kept having waves of nausea but they’d pass and then I’d be back in my euphoric state. I went to Heaven and saw my Grandad. Heaven was very crowded – full of people chatting! It didn’t feel the right place for me yet but it has given me something to look forward to when the time comes.
At one point, I felt like I was watching myself sleeping. I was dreaming about my Dad. I saw a picture of his face. He was smiling and then started to cry. I too started crying as it dawned on me that this man, who I had always looked to for strength and verification, was also an emotional being. He too has had great sadness during his life and at the end of the day, is just the same as everyone else and needs a hug and reassurance. I then saw my Mum. She was beaming at me. She looked radiant and beautiful – like she is. I had enormous pride for her. I investigated the reasons why they divorced. It gave me the answers I needed. Then I saw other family members and friends. One by one. I remember having an overwhelming feeling of unconditional love for each and every one.
My Ayahuasca experience felt like it lasted a lifetime. I’ve managed to capture only a handful of things in full detail. The rest is a blurry mixture of incredible sensations and visions – both of fear and euphoria, shapes and colours, sleep and consciousness.
I’d find myself back in the room, with our Shaman singing and chanting. Then when he fell silent, we all rested. As soon as he started singing again, the hallucinations would start again too. The songs would change and it’d take me to a different place.
My Ayahuasca family. We all went through the process together and came out smiling.
I could go on and on about how this experience introduced me to a whole new dimension however, it’s such a personal journey, I don’t feel I can relay it in words. I am also aware that my whole experience may sound crazy to some people (a bit like when someone claims they were abducted by aliens). Only those who have tried Ayahuasca can really relate to what I felt and discovered.
The great thing for me is that there are so many amazing accounts online from others about their experiences. This includes a fantastic TED talk from Graham Hancock who explains the importance of Ayahuasca (for those who are ready to take it). It actually got banned from the TED site as Ayahuasca in most countries (including the UK) is an illegal substance. In Peru, however, it is by far their strongest medicine. PLEASE watch this brilliant TED talk for more incite into the ancient healing of Ayahuasca. Check out British explorer Bruce Parry too. His Ayahuasca experiences are well documented.
My advice for anyone wanting to take Ayahuasca is to prepare with mediation and a vegetarian diet (apparently fish is ok). That way you’re cleansing your body before putting it in front of mother nature – showing that you have respect for your life. A good Shaman is pivotal. Ayahuasca is not something to take lightly and it will change the way you look at life forever. It is also scary at times – so always open your heart and look for peace during the experience.
Lastly, I’d like to tell you about how I felt once the medicine finally wore off.
The morning after the ceremony, overlooking the mountains of Cusco. 1st January 2014. New beginnings.
I was totally, utterly and absolutely in love with everything. I’d never had so much peace and happiness before. I felt radiant and extremely clean. My heart felt huge! The intensity of this feeling lasted for a couple of days after the ceremony. Now I feel it has shifted me to a deeper level of understanding and gives me a better perspective on the world in which we live in and my life.
Would I do it again? When She calls, I’ll book my flight and be there in a heartbeat.