Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

Drinking ayahuasca: could it change my life?

It’s what I’ve heard can happen.

And I was dutifully sceptical, as many people often are when regarding things they don’t understand. Ayahuasca’s just a drug, right? A cooked up plant from deep in the rainforest that makes you trip out and hallucinate; a trip that makes you think you’re seeing your entire life and the universe and everything in between.

Probably nothing more than a bunch of hippies getting high. Right?

But then I tried ayahuasca for myself – and immediately I understood that all those suppositions were unfounded. In fact, they couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

What is ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is an ancient medicine, ingested in the form of a drink, and is the result of brewing together a mix of leaves, shrubs, and other substances. The main ingredient, however, is a particular vine that shamans venture deep into the rainforest to find.

The practice of drinking ayahuasca has existed for hundreds of years; predominantly in South America, where the majority of shamans have spent their lives studying the vine, learning from it and working with it. Conducting ceremonies for other people is a huge part of this shamanic learning process.

Ayahuasca goes by many names; ‘the vine of the soul’, ‘spirit vine’, and ‘vine of the dead’ are all translations of the word. It’s viewed by some as therapy, by others as a portal into one’s subconscious, and most people claim that ayahuasca enables the drinker to experience intense revelations, moments of spiritual awakening and an ability to understand the true nature of the universe.

If you want to drink ayahuasca, think about it first…

The most important thing to know is that ayahuasca is not a drug. It is not something you do casually for fun, or because you feel like ‘getting high’. The moments of clarity and self-realisation can often be accompanied by strong nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and intense emotional distress. The ayahuasca is a medicine, and the process of drinking forces your body to accept this medicine in whichever is most neceassry for you at that time.

Moreover, drinking ayahuasca is not an isolated incident, but becomes, for many, but the beginning of a process to discover the real self.

Each person’s experience of ayahuasca is also wholly unique and incredibly personal. After a ceremony, it may feel perfectly natural to discuss what’s just happened with your shaman, or with the people you’ve shared your ceremony with. It makes less sense, however, to publicise it on the internet, where those you’ve never met are going to read it.

So it’s been difficult, making the decision to write about my experience with ayahuasca. It’s not something I went looking for – although in hindsight, I’ve realised that if you’re meant to drink then the ayahuasca will find you. When the time is right.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

For me, it happened somewhere along the road in South America. The time and location are irrelevant: all that matters is that those two ceremonies I participated in – both times drinking a single, small glass of dark purple liquid – were the most intensely personal experiences I’ve ever had.

And it meant so much to me that there’s no way I can’t express it in writing. Or, rather, I have no choice but to read through the pages of frenzied notes I made at the time, and collate them into something readable.

So here goes.

The beginning.

A small room, dark, lit only by candles in glass jars. The sound of the forest outside; trees bending and shifting softly in the mountain breeze.

A small circle of standing figures, hands held, layered up in clothes to protect them from the chill. The low hum of voices, singing words I don’t understand. A shaman with a small tower of little glasses, cupped in his left hand. He pours something thick and dark purple from a plastic bottle, presents me with the glass, and bids me to drink with the slightest of nods.

Everything still feels small, calm, and cosy. This is about to change.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

I sit back down, wrapping myself in the folds of my bright orange sleeping bag, lying back against a foam mattress. It seems like the others in the room are either meditating or sleeping; eyes closed, bodies still.

I glance to the folds of orange against my bent legs. The folds look different, somehow; deeper, darker, and more starkly detailed.

Suddenly, the room begins to shift. The walls are longer, stretching upwards and outwards, and they are changing colour, becoming 2D, like a cartoon. The planes of the faces of those silent figures around me are smooth, clean, like the faces of Disney characters. Devoid of detail. I can hear a deep seated buzz descending, as if from far away. A feeling of enormity begins to overwhelm me.

I try to breathe, calmly, and focus myself. I know that the work of the ayahuasca is fully underway now. I try to rationalise what is happening around me, but it’s difficult when the empty window panes opposite begin to gape like yawning jaws. I watch a person’s head stretch backwards, much too far. I realise things are about to get really intense.

I lift my hand to wipe my forehead, and look with shock at my fingers. They are red, tapered, and much too long. I hide them beneath the sleeping bag hurriedly. The orange colour is moving, writhing, and I can see all the workings within it.

I turn my head to the wooden beams of the wall beside me. They are beautiful, fascinating, filled with the movement of whatever wood is truly made of: all the cogs and creatures inside it, crawling and swimming and turning.

I look to my orange covered knees again. They are shrinking. The orange fabric wrinkles and falls, down towards the mat, as the solidity of my legs dissolves underneath. My body is beginning to disappear.

The process of forgetting, and the loss of the self.

What follows is an untold amount of time wherein I cannot realise the idea that I exist. I lose the ability to identify myself. I cannot remember my name, the names of people I know and love – I can’t conceive of their identities. I don’t have an understanding of ‘the self’. I don’t know who, or what, I am.

I don’t have the ability to be terrified because I can’t remember it.

(Later, I am told that this is ‘being entirely present’ – when you are unable to think beyond that precise moment.)

Eventually, after what feels like centuries, this loss of the self begins to readjust. It begins with a realisation that I am staring hard at the group of empty glasses on the floor. I know they mean something important, and that they are intrinsically related to the word my lips are silently forming.

‘”Ayahuasca…”

I feel like I recognise this moment, that I appreciate its importance. I have the sense that this situation is forever, and will never change; I have always been here, I will always be here. The enormity of that concept strangely doesn’t feel as enormous as it should.

Eventually, I’m able to cement a few key words and concepts in my head, without them immediately disappearing. One is the ability to look at my left wrist, and see the thin lettering of seven words that I had tattooed there, almost five years ago.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

New words find their way to my lips. They taste different. I experiment under my breath – or in my head. I’m not totally sure.

“My mum existed. She existed. She died. My mum died…”

The concept of her death is difficult to hold onto, though. And it doesn’t seem to hold significance for me in this moment. Saying the fact under my breath doesn’t change anything; what even is death, really?

The idea of death becomes transient – and somehow unimportant. I have no need to worry about it, because it’s so separate from what is really necessary: the mind, the process, the thought patterns.

The thoughts about my mum aren’t of her in a physical form, but her, as an energy, as a spirit, as a life force that carried me and carries me onward, always, ever present within me and around me and through me and because of me.

I start to formulate a realisation that even though she’s gone in terms of sight and body and touch, she hasn’t disappeared completely. A large part of her, her energy and her spirit, is still very much a part of me. While I’ve often thought this in the past, this is the first time I truly believe – and understand – the idea.

(Later, I realise that I have connected the loss of my mum to an imagined possibility that I may also lose my own self as a result. The disappearance of my identity in the ceremony is strongly linked with this fear)

The visions.

At some unknown point, I find myself steadfastly walking up a hill. It could be the hill outside – but, equally, it could just be in my head. The darkness and the mist envelop me, comfort me. It feels as though something is pulling me ever higher; physically, almost, like an invisible rope tugging at my waist. The torchlight flashes from side to side as I quickly stumble. I don’t remember finding shoes or putting on a head torch.

But then I turn my head. I see the space where I’ve been sitting for so many hours, bathed in warm yellow light thrown by so many candles.

I need to go back.

There is a change. I am an insect. I can see with a thousand eyes.

I am a dog; lying down with my face in the pillow, folded over, being on the floor. I am animalistic.

The purging.

I sit just outside for a long time. Inside our ceremony space, there is soft, slow guitar music, beautiful and comforting. But I can’t go in just yet. I look to the dark night sky, and the blurred stars through a mist of fog. It means everything and nothing at the same time. Like the sky is solid, but I can see through it, and within it.

Suddenly, I am squatting between my legs, right down on the dirt, and I am purging. A respectful word for vomiting this liquid out of my system, feeling the thick bitter taste rise and the sense of this purple entity emerging from my throat. And during the moment it is horribly surprising and unexpected, and I look through the doorway to the warmth and the light, and I connect for a moment with a glance, with a face. But then it’s back to the ground, and there are explosions of colour while this stuff comes out of me. Suddenly, my teeth are grinding together, the feeling so foreign, almost like I didn’t know I’d had teeth before this moment and am testing them out.

But even as I am gasping for breath, I feel the beauty in the actions I’m involuntarily making.

My mind and my body are working together, and the ‘self’ – the ego – that I’ve been deconstructing throughout the ceremony, has no part to play in it. Normally I would feel embarrassed, but instead I simply accept the process, watching and appreciating that my body knows what to do.

The happiness, the colours and the light.

Eventually, I come back to happiness. After the purging is finished, I am in our ceremony space again. I look to a single candle that flutters on the window frame.

 Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

It is a portal. It shines down on the group of glasses in the centre of the room, and they fracture the light into a myriad of colours. These colours are strings of multicoloured light that fall from this central candle on the sill to the glasses, and then onwards to the bodies dotted around the room. I look down and see this light emanating from deep inside my chest, or going within, or both.

It’s something I can only quantify as energy, as a kind of life force, emanating from every single object and person I can see, connecting them, uniting them. It’s so intense that my eyes find it hard to focus – or maybe that’s the point? I realise it doesn’t matter if they’re opened or closed: the colours appear regardless. My eyelids flutter as I see layer upon layer of colour and light stringing and beading its way around our ceremony space. The air is not empty, but filled to the brim with these pathways of energy. It’s like being in a fourth dimension. Or a fifth.

The colours, and the feeling that accompanies them, are utterly delightful, and I want to hold onto this ability to see the world through such a lens. I get the distinct feeling that this is how everything actually looks – we just don’t have the senses for it in our day to day lives.

The realisations.

I touch my stomach – hold a handful, feeling it in my fist, clenched together between the fingers – and Mama Ayahuasca tells me that my body is just an extension of my clothing. It means nothing because all that is truly important is in the mind.

I look to the structure of this half built space, and Mama Ayahuasca tells me this is like my life; that things are still in flux, still in process, but with warmth and love, friends and family, it’s ok that things have changed and my mum isn’t here anymore.

This new family, this new life, this new structure will carry me through. If I’m ready, willing, able to understand that there’s work to be done, on this land and in my own being, there will come a time when everything will make sense. Eventually.

The importance of music.

At some point, I am singing. Not with words but with a melody I feel I’ve always known, while the sound of two guitars intertwine in the room around me. The music is perfect. I’m sure it’s always been there, throughout the whole experience.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

The music helps me realise the existence of others in our ceremony space. Other figures, smiling, stretching, focusing on each other. The love and connection I feel to all of them is indescribable; the belief that I have always known them. My cheeks ache from smiling; the sense of warmth and comfort is all encompassing.

I get up, slightly shakily.

“I just want to hug everyone..”

The first words I’ve uttered in six or seven hours. Words I don’t really mean to say. They come straight from the heart. Straight from the ayahuasca.

The aftermath of ayahuasca

For a long time afterward, as the effects of the ayahuasca faded, we talked about our experiences. What we’d seen, how we’d felt, what had changed. I talked out my emotions, lying on my back, covered by an orange sleeping bag that looked somewhat normal again. I felt safe, happy, contented.

And now, quite a while after my experiences with drinking ayahuasca, I remain sure that it has changed my life – my outlook on life, anyway.

A few months after my mum died, I remember explaining to my then-boyfriend that it felt like my whole life up until that point had been a rehearsal; a practice run for coping with such sudden, aching loss. I told him I honestly couldn’t remember what my life was like before she’d gone.

Now, I can see similarities. Ayahuasca takes you where you’re supposed to go – and my first time, I was supposed to understand just how beautiful the world can be. It has always been that way. I just needed clarification on the subject, and my eyes to be opened.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

But I was incredibly lucky for my first time meeting the ayahuasca: in a safe and comfortable environment, with a group of people I knew, and with a shaman I trusted implicitly.

There are other places deemed not so trustworthy – like the Amazonian town of Iquitos, Peru, where there have been reports of unscrupulous shamans offering fake ceremonies to eager tourists. Although I’m not condemning the entire place, it definitely pays to be careful.

Ayahuasca is not a drug, and it’s not a plaything. If you’re planning to drink for a quick fix, for an attempt at weight loss, or even just to ‘get high’; I wish you luck in your endeavours, but I don’t think you’ll find what you’re after. Ayahuasca has a strange way of providing the exact right experiences for the person involved.

It is a process, and an education.

What ayahuasca showed me

I needed to readdress the issues surrounding the passing of my mum, and make some form of peace with them. I needed to look deeper into myself, and accept the person I am.

Despite feeling terrified, overwhelmed, and essentially nonexistent during both the ceremonies I took part in, I still see the incredible benefits of pursuing the path of ayahuasca. It provides an ability to see and learn untold amounts about the world, and about everyone’s places within it.

Talking with my friends from both ceremonies gave me the smallest of insights into what can be done; rebirth, healing and facing one’s own death. Only to come out, with certainty, on the other side.

So I don’t know when I’ll drink ayahuasca again – but I’m sure it will happen eventually.

There’s a lot of work left to do.

Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

(Photo by Marco Reeuwijk)

All photos by Marco Reeuwijk are reproduced with his permission. For more of Marco’s work, please go to www.marcoreeuwijk.com.

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Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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74 Responses to Can Drinking Ayahuasca Change Your Life?

  1. Britany October 18, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Wow, you’re so lucky to have successfully experienced ayahuasca like this. It makes me want to give it another shot and hope my barriers towards it can be broken down eventually. But at the same time, you’re right in that ayahuasca seems to find those that need it and work in the way we each need it to work, so maybe my experience, although much less intense, was just what I needed at that time. And maybe I’ll meet ayahuasca again in the future as well. 🙂

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:29 am #

      If you’re supposed to work with it again then it’ll find you 🙂 I remember reading your post about your experience and wondering if ayahuasca was something rather hit and miss – but I have no doubt now that it delivers exactly what it’s supposed to.

  2. Sally October 18, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    I’m speechless, this was beautiful.

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:34 am #

      Thank you so much Sally!

  3. Peter October 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Sounds deep and seductive. I see you’ve changed your tagline too, much prefer this one!

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:34 am #

      Not sure if I’d describe it as seductive – more utterly overwhelming – but I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 And cheers for the tagline mention, I prefer it a lot more too!

  4. Leigh October 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Yes, Flora, this is really beautiful writing.

    I’ve been wanting to try ayahuasca for a while. There hasn’t been a time or place, though, that has made it possible. What I hear from people generally is that it kills the ego.

    it’s also interesting in that recently ayahuasca has become something western people do. I think we tend to have a very different relationship with the ego. Particularly different than someone who has grown up in a culture where ayahuasca is a norm, and people spend their lives taking it regularly.

    I’m glad you found at least a piece of what you wanted to find in your journey. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your mother, your loss and how it resonates in your life. These are not easy things to share, particularly in the ego world.

    Besitos de Argentina!

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:39 am #

      Thanks Leigh, I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

      You’re right, ayahuasca is mentioned more and more in Western circles now; in fact, it’s fast becoming one of the ‘must-do’ items on the South America backpacker trail. And while there’s a worry it could become too Westernised (ie rogue shamans preying on Western fascination with the medicine and treating people in ways they should definitely not be treated), there’s also the wonderful thought that many more people will discover just how powerful and life changing ayahuasca really is.

      The breaking down of the ego is not something that happens to everyone (or not immediately, anyway) but clearly it was something I really needed to address within my first few ceremonies. And because it’s such an impacting realisation I think that’s why I’ve felt so affected by the ceremonies I took part in. And yes, it’s certainly been a huge influence in my journey thus far 🙂 Gracias por tus besitos!

  5. Brenna October 18, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    Wow. I am blown away by your honesty and your beautiful words. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us – it is so very brave, and makes me like you even more (hopefully not a strange thing to say, though I suppose I am a stranger).

    I had a few opportunities to try ayahuasca last year in South America, but, as you wrote, the time just wasn’t right. I knew it in my heart – I wasn’t quite ready to face some of the things in my past, in my present. I hope that one day I will be.

    Thank you again for this, Flora.

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:44 am #

      Thank you so much Brenna – and it’s not a strange thing to say at all! One of the most lovely things about our whole blogging network is feeling like we already know each other by the words we write (I have the same feelings about your work too!) 🙂

      I think it was equally brave of you to know yourself enough to not drink when you were offered. I’d known about ayahuasca for a couple of years, and though I assumed I’d end up trying it at some point, I never actively went searching – and I think that’s why I found it at the exact right moment to receive the lessons I did.

      I’m sure that if you’re meant to drink, it’ll appear when you’re ready.

  6. SnarkyNomad October 19, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    It’s really interesting seeing the long-term positive changes that hallucinogenics seem to create for people. It’s not just a one-time experience, but a long-term outlook change. It’s quite amazing how easily manipulable the human brain can be, but at least in this case, it tends to be positive.

    On a lighter note, I remember watching a documentary with a couple anthropological researchers taking it, and one of them ran off into the woods and the camera crew lost him completely. They found him later and it was all fine, but…well, it made for great TV.

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:47 am #

      I think for some people it can be just a one off, but for others it’s the beginning of something a lot bigger. And it completely depends on how your first couple of ceremonies go, because obviously if nothing happens you’re less likely to feel the need to drink again! But for those of us who go this deep from the outset… yeah, a “long-term outlook change” is definitely the right way of putting it!

  7. colin farrel October 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    I am speechless and I’m never at a lost for words. I enjoyed the story and I wondered what I would do if I had an opportunity to try it.

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:48 am #

      I’m sure you’d know what to do if that time came, Colin 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  8. Julio October 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Thank you for slashing such a good testimonial for the entire world to learn about. The Spirit of Ayahuasca rejoices with your words…. this perfectly matches with the worldview of the plant spirit as outlined in the free e-book “Ayahuasca Manifesto”. You can download it from its facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/manifesto23 Blessings to all !

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:51 am #

      Thank you Julio for your words! Blessings to you too 🙂

  9. Bianca October 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Flora! Great post 🙂 Before coming to South America this year, I didn’t know of Ayahuasca’s existence. In the last few weeks, I’ve started to hear its name more and more often. Since I have some personal issues that I’ve been struggling with for a while, I’m ready to give it a go. I’m just waiting for the right moment to come and your post gives me a bit more reassurance. Gracias!

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:54 am #

      Wow Bianca, that’s great to hear that you’re thinking about drinking! And I’m glad I could be of help 🙂 Can’t wait to hear how your experience goes – let me know if you need to ask any questions etc!

  10. Amanda October 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    Amazing piece, Flora. I’m really glad you found a way to write about your experience. It gave me goosebumps.

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:55 am #

      Thanks so much Amanda 🙂 Writing about it was so hard to get right, but ultimately I’m really glad I managed it.

  11. Beth October 22, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    I had heard of ayahuasca before, but I didn’t know that much about it. This was beautifully written, so thank you for sharing your personal experiences!

    I’m not sure if I would try it, or be able to write about the experience after.

    • Flora October 22, 2013 at 1:56 am #

      You’re welcome Beth 🙂 It’s certainly not an experience for everyone, but I think it’s really beneficial to those who feel called to drink. Not everyone writes about it though!

  12. Alexander October 22, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Thank you for sharing, Flora! And beautifully written at that… (and before I make more words I just stop, because that is what I learned from A.)

    • Flora October 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      A man of few words, but extremely valuable ones 🙂 Thanks for reading Peli!

  13. Harriet October 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this Flora 🙂 really brought back some of my own experiences, beautifully written. I’m about to embark on my second experience and I’m anxious, excited, overwhelmed, hesitant, and yet so sure the time is right for my second round of workshops… what a crazy wonderful path ayahuasca can set us upon! Thanks again x Harriet x

    • Flora October 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      If you feel the time is right, then I’m sure your second set of workshops will be enlightening and guide you in a path that’s helpful to you 🙂 I’m so glad this piece brought back some memories for you! The best of luck to you Harriet, I hope everything goes well for you!

  14. Victoria October 23, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    Beautifully written piece Flora. Very different to my own experiences. Can’t quite find the words right now but will find them eventually!

    • Flora October 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      I’d love to hear how your experiences went, Victoria! Sounds intriguing… Thanks so much for reading though 🙂

  15. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey October 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Thanks for the clear-eyed and honest account of your ayuhuasca experiences without the usual mumbo jumbo.

    • Flora October 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

      You’re welcome, Karen. I think it’s quite a difficult task to talk in detail about an ayahuasca experience, mainly because it provokes such a different set of reactions to the ones we’re used to, and that can be seriously confusing! I think I did my own, personal experience justice though 🙂

  16. Ross December 9, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Brilliant post. You are brave to write such a personal piece, very moving.

    • Flora December 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Thanks Ross. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece!

  17. AleksR December 13, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi Guys,

    This was written beautifully, but there only one problem if you wanna call it that. I feel like you only had small glimps into what aya does. If you really want the full effects of what this amazing plant does, you really have to try it with a powerful shamen… I did last year in peru and I am going again in feb this year… Trust me nothing like having access to full nature in the amazon and seing those spirits trying to help you and teach you. Its life changing…

    • Flora December 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Thanks for your insights, Aleks. I can humbly say that, having only met with ayahuasca a few times in my life so far, I probably have no idea as to its potential effects. But I have certainly had the joy of working with a couple of very powerful shamans and I agree with you – it is a truly amazing experience. I wish you all the best on your journey with ayahuasca, particularly next February!

  18. Ian Driscoll December 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Hey all – some of the readers of this article may be interested in this project. I wanted to let you know about a kickstarter campaign for a new book I’m writing about my experiences with Ayahuasca and the Shipibo natives of Peru. It’s a story straight from my heart.

    If you have a minute, please give the video a look and/or read through the proposal: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1972703001/stranger-travels-teachings-from-the-heart-of-the-a

    Every contribution is greatly appreciated. And if you know anyone who might be interested in backing a project like this, please pass it along! Thanks very much.

  19. TammyOnTheMove January 6, 2014 at 1:23 am #

    Wow, what an interesting experience. I was offered to do this ceremony in 2008 in the Ecuadorian jungle. I was really intrigued to do it, but at the same time I was a bit scared that I would totally freak out while tripping. Also I had to catch a bus the next day and I was told that you will feel quite rough afterwards because of all the vomiting. So this whole trip lasts about 7 hours? That must be so weird. Did you remember everything afterwards then? I have just arrived in Peru and will stay here, Bolivia, Chile and Brazil over the coming months, so I am thinking of doing it. Now that I am a bit older (and hopefully wiser) I feel that I would probably be much less scared and more open to what will happen to my body.

    • Flora January 18, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

      Yeah, the length of the experience can certainly vary (I felt pretty strange for a good portion of the next day too) but the strong effects of ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ etc would usually last about 7 or 8 hours. I remembered feelings and thought processes more than the entire experience per se, but I was very quick to write a huge amount of it down as I didn’t want to lose the memories of it!

      I think it’s a hugely worthwhile experience, but I’d recommend doing your research, and spending time with the shaman beforehand to make sure you feel comfortable around him. If it’s done properly then it’s incredible, but I’ve been very lucky with my experiences and I really want other people to have the same luck 🙂

      • Dee March 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

        I have been researching ayahuasca for some time and have decide to move forward with the journey as I feel it’s time , can you recommend the shaman and place where you did it?

  20. Kindred Spirit August 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    A heartfelt Thanks Flora for the summary of your Aya experience. It was an insightful piece and had it been 50 or 100 pages I would have kept on reading. 🙂 yes I’m sure you could get a book out of it!! (Hint, hint)
    My first Aya trip ( pun intended) is in Oct … 6wks away, and yes I’m quite excited. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas morning!!
    Aya first “came to me” around 1995 in a discussion I heard on Ethnobotany. I didn’t grasp the magnitude of the topic, but came away with the word “Ayawaska”, which was the best spelling I could manage. I recently found that sticky note AFTER booking for the upcoming trip was completed.

    Since her introduction to me in 1995, Mama Aya has shown up over and over. And during those years I felt her gentle persuasion, but I was not ready to take the leap and knew it.

    I’ve done much since that time to prepare and pave the way for this my Full Awakening. And just like death, no amount of preparation is ever enough. Yet there is an “at peace” feeling I have amidst my excitement. There is a sense of comfort in my timing and readiness in taking the journey now – I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to meet my whole self. It feels like a first date… so exciting yet a bit unnerving at the same time.

    Over the years I’ve done extensive research and recently found more personal accounts in written form, like yours, which has been most helpful.
    I’ve done my best to prepare and have now surrendered to Mama Aya for the rest of my journey.

    Thank you for taking time to share aspects of your journey, it has helped strip away various forms and layers of nervousness.

    -Here’s to your continued Blessings!

    • Flora August 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

      I’m so glad that my writing on ayahuasca resonated with you – that was always my intention. I’m sure your journey will be a wonderful and enlightening one 🙂 And thanks so much for the book hinting!

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  32. Ken Z January 6, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi flora,

    Fascinating post!

    I’ve heard about ayahuasca a little bit before reading this post and was intrigued by it. However, after reading your beautifully informative post, I am definitely interested in having a similar experience.

    I was just curious how you came into contact with it and how can you ensure you are doing it under a safe and reputable shaman?

    Thanks,
    Ken

    • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Ken! I would say the most important thing is to properly do your research, and be well aware of the reputations of the people you’re drinking with – but also your gut instinct is very important. I’ve heard stories from other travellers of shamans who were well known to do good work but simply didn’t ‘feel right’ for a particular person, so they chose not to drink. Bear in mind that your shaman is responsible for your personal wellbeing throughout the ceremony, so you need to be able to trust them implicitly with protecting you. Quite a big thing!

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  34. Schalk Lavis February 18, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Hi, thank you for this article. It is weird or amazing how similar our Ayahuasca experiences were. I took part in an aya ceremony this Saturday past. This was done as I needed to find closure on the death of my Mother. It was definitely what my soul needed and I also addressed various known and unknown issues that arose during my journey. I am not completely healed as yet but my road to spiritual recovery and eventual victory over my demons has started. a word of advice to those thinking this is something you do for kicks, it is not. The Universe kicked my butt and showed me EVERYTHING about myself I wanted to see and not see. Hope you find this message in good health, Namaste 🙂

  35. Ryan April 24, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    It’s an amazing experience and indeed it changes your life. I am really happy to read all this information about taking Ayahuasca.

  36. Paul July 9, 2015 at 6:56 am #

    I appreciated the comment about the possible ” intense emotional distress.” That was my experience. I tell people I was in pain during the ceremony, and they say, “Where did it hurt?”

    Not that kind of pain, I say. The pain like when your girlfriend leaves you. The pain like when your friend dies. That kind of pain. That kind of mute horror.

    Anything that will change your entire world view in a short amount of time should be treated with a great deal of respect.

    If you are considering a ceremony, think about what this means: I felt what it was like to die. Think about it. Are you ready for that?

    That said, I can say that after 3 years, my one ceremony still remains with me and it gave me the strength to confront personal issues that I did not seem to have the power to face up to before the ceremony.

    This is a long term, positive effect that I remain very grateful for.

  37. Moris November 3, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    Seems like you really had a wonderfull experience !

    My ceremony was the most intense thing i ever experienced, it was absolutely mind-blowing. Definetely showed me how naive i was asking for a glimpse for enlightenment.

    It was incredible and frightening, i approached mother earth, which seemed to be the source of all our spirits, all life.
    The respect and fear were incredible since i had never felt such divinity.
    I as well had to completely give up myself, let go of ego and body to go this place.

    Loving and gentle, she noticed my intention and infused it into me, the glimpse i wished for and i never would have expected what it means, understanding everything.
    It was such a load of information that my mind could not contain it, getting stretched to far beyond its limits.

    So ultimately, to not get mad i sealed this knowledge in 2 imaginary chests i could hardly ever get access to.

    Short version of my experience, it is crazy what it can open up.
    And it seems to be more intense for younger people, being more open or for whatever reason.

    • Flora November 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm #

      Your experience sounds just as wonderful Moris – I’m so glad you were able to gain such positivity from it too 🙂 I think you’re right about it being an overload of information, too: I don’t actually re-read this article that often as I can get somewhat overwhelmed with the memories as a result.

  38. Vee July 25, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    Flora, what was the name of the retreat you attended. We are attending a retreat in Iquitos, which I can only hope is with a proper shaman. It’s always nice to hear some reviews of retreats people have attended.
    Vee

    • Flora August 2, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

      Hi Vee, I’m so sorry to have missed your comment! Actually I didn’t attend a named retreat when I met with the ayahuasca so I don’t have a specific recommendation for you. I hope you found a good, safe place in Iquitos though 🙂

  39. Dan September 21, 2016 at 4:27 am #

    Amazing article. I have a question. I recently bought a small bag of fine brown powder of it, but there are no instructions. Is it safe to mix a small amount, say 1/4 teaspoon into a cup of water and drink it down slowly like tea? Would that have an effect? So curious to try it at home. Thanx!

    • Flora September 21, 2016 at 8:59 am #

      Hi Dan, thanks so much for getting in touch 🙂 Unfortunately as I have never prepared ayahuasca myself I can’t recommend any method – and I wouldn’t want to suggest something which might end up being detrimental! If you haven’t delved into the forums of Erowid I’d suggest starting there? Best of luck 🙂

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