Spiritual journey. Quasi-illegal psychotropic trip. Shamanistic therapy.
What am I talking about?
I am talking about taking a ride on the spiritual train, a ride known as Ayahuasca in Peru. Participating in one of these deeply sacred ceremonies in the Amazonian jungles of Peru is for the brave, prepared traveler.
What is it?
Ayahuasca is a Quecha word that means “vine of the soul”. It is a liquid concoction composed of Caapivine that has hallucinogenic chemicals in it and can also be mixed with shrubs and leaves which contain DMT (dimethyltryptamine)—a powerful psychedelic drug. DMT is the part of the recipe responsible for sending its user on their spiritual journey; the other plant ingredients work together to let DMT do the work and allow the windows of the soul to open and insights to be revealed. The vine is boiled with other plants to make a brew that you consume by drinking; it ends up having the texture of sludge and the taste of your least favorite prunes.
It’s similar, kind of, to magic mushrooms. Click here to research more about what that experience is like and how long it lasts.
Who administers it and is it legal?
It is under the supervision of a shaman, or spiritual healer, that one can be safely led in their interaction with Ayahuasca. The shaman’s job is to guide and protect one during their journey with this drink, keeping negative entities away. Since this piece of ancient Amazonian culture has become a money-making endeavor on the tourist circuit as of late, expect to hear of people referred to as “brujos” if you decide to do it. These are people pretending to be trained spiritual healers, who claim they will guide people who consume Ayahuasca in their presence. It is important to find a tried and true shaman/retreat center that has your best interests in mind.
Because the Ayahuasca brew can contain DMT it is illegal in the US and in other countries because DMT falls within a classification of psychotropic substances. However, there is currently no set regulations around the world monitoring the plants that contain DMT.
Why is it popular on the backpacker circuit?
Besides the obvious reasons of the experience not being readily available back home in places like the US, using Ayahuasca is an experience with a titillating track record of healing. There are accounts of people being completely healed of cancers, depression, and addictions. Also, the concept of taking an internal journey seems to be congruent with the motivations of traveling in and of itself.
Am I ready to do it?
The short answer to this is one is that only you know if you are ready. Participating in an Ayahuasca retreat is no joke. The effects of consuming this spiritual cocktail is strong, and a potential gateway to some serious other-dimensional insights. Many people, after consuming it, report an intense stage of purging. Physically this purge takes the form of vomiting, diarrhea, and hot/cold flashes. Shamans view this as a natural part of the journey, as it is the release of negative energies from the human body.
Chemically, Ayahuasca is not to be taken lightly by any means. It is derived from a potent vine and should not be combined with any type of anti-depressant prescription drug or anti-anxiety medication.
What’s it like?
You can expect to enter another world. Out-of-body experiences (OBE) are a rather normal occurrence on this plant’s ceremonial path, as well as visions of humanity’s current state of affairs and the emotions that come with it. This is where one’s darkest and lightest places can emerge. Ayahuasca allows the ego (your mind’s constant chatter which is usually negative) to be temporarily eclipsed so you can enter the depths of your being and gain insights and heal on whatever level is important for you.
You can come back from the journey with visions of a renewed life for yourself, messages from your spirit guides, and even images of new things for your life. The ceremony last 4-5 hours.
I have never participated in an Ayahuasca ceremony, however, I do find it wildly interesting and well worth the genuine research if you feel pulled towards it during your travels. Travel is already about mind expansion and new experiences, therefore this excursion might trump last year’s kitschy photo-bombing adventure to Lake Titicaca’s Salt Flats.
Be safe. Do your research. And always trust that female intuition.
My wife and I went on a three day ayahuasca retreat in Cuzco a couple months ago … what an experience! Very intense, to say the least! As I’ve heard many other people say, it’s definitely work and not just something to take for a fun trip. It was a struggle, with lots of stomach pain, vomiting, and unpleasantness. Despite this, though, the good did outweigh the bad. I’d recommend it, as long as its done in a safe & comfortable environment.
I blogged about my experience here: