When it comes to drinking Ayahuasca there are now many options available to people all over the world. Some call it Ayahuasca tourism, others call it Ayahuasca commercialism, the two being in reference to retreat centres and its sale online respectively. From my personal perspective I see it as Ayahuasca doing its thing and spreading in the way it wants to spread. Using the ways and means of our culture to get to the people it needs to get to.
Some examples of misuse are no doubt serving to highlight how things should and shouldn’t be done. As a collective we’re getting the hang of it, especially when we pay respect to the culture it was born in and its home, the Amazon.
A real point of contention that will often raise red flags on both sides for more experienced drinkers is the practice of drinking Ayahuasca in your own home Vs drinking in a group with a curandero/facilitator/shaman at a retreat centre.
There’s no right or wrong here for me, there are just advantages, disadvantages, health warnings and of course an acceptance that was is right for one, may not be right for the other. Furthermore, what’s right at one point in your life is no longer the way for you as you progress further down your path.
Drinking at a retreat or with curanderos carries no guarantee of safety or well being. It is your responsibility to choose wisely. You can use reports and reviews from others or even your own interactions with the centre/shaman to make a choice. How do they respond? What kind of presence do they have? Do they seem to take care with their work? Are they 100% committed to it? Do their values match your own?
Wherever and however you choose to drink, knowing you have the support in place following the ceremony is perhaps one of the most crucial factors.
When it comes to drinking in the home I feel you can make further distinctions between your own home and the home of a banco/curandero/shaman Vs truly on your own. Before I go into those options we’ll first take a look at retreats and group ceremonies.
From what I see this is the most common way people introduce themselves to Ayahuasca and picking the right place for you is a subject in itself. The retreat centre is a much more recent practice and new way of doing things, that has allowed the curanderos of the Amazon to open up their work to large numbers of people. This doesn’t always mean the right balance is struck.
Quite often people will complain about the price and there are some very expensive options out there. Do your research, however, and there are also some very affordable and mid range options too. They all offer different things. The variables between retreats are huge and include but are not limited to:
- Length of the retreat
- Number of people attending
- Number of staff/trained healers working
- Experience and reputation
- Standard of food/accommodation
- Range of plants on offer
- Others services available
Picking the right one involves open and honest communication and a willingness to follow your gut instincts. Don’t rush in and if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Be patient, when it’s time it’s time.
There are many advantages to participating in a retreat space, whether in the Amazon or elsewhere.
- If you choose wisely you will be fully supported both in ceremony and following the ceremony by experienced, attentive and caring healers.
- Working with the plants over an extended period of time can greatly deepen the process
- If something goes wrong there will be someone to assist and guide you (once again, if you choose wisely)
- Sharing the experience with others can create lifelong bonds and friendships
- During retreat in the darkest of hours, is when I’ve seen the light of humanity shine brightest. People heal people and the term ‘we are all just walking each other home’ has never been so apparent as it has in those heart opening moments on retreat.
The retreat space can also have its downsides:
- Sometimes you can pay for support that you just don’t get. You’re of course responsible for yourself but keeping you safe from harm is a minimum requirement that I continually see places and facilitators failing on.
- All kinds of complex energies can be swirling around which can make you vulnerable if you are not adequately cared for.
- Some retreat centres and organisations operate a stack em high policy. Personally I’ve always found larger ceremonies fine but not desirable and I know many who have had harrowing and uncomfortable experiences in larger ceremonies. Small, intimate ceremonies is not a bad criteria to have on your checklist.
Drinking in a Banco/Shaman/Curanderos Home
This is traditionally how the medicine would be worked with although it is rare the patient would drink. These days people are much more interested in experiencing Ayahuasca for themselves which allows them to experience and work with their own healing more closely. It’s not a bad progression and seems to be opening the doors to human expansion and a closer relationship with the planet we live on. The best healers can heal with a song, making it totally unnecessary for the patient to drink. It all depends on where you’re at and where you want to take things.
The Shaman’s home is perhaps the best option and there are some clear advantages here:
- The environment will most likely be more relaxing and less filled with the nervous energies of other guests.
- It will usually be a small group or even a private ceremony.
- Healers working from their home are relaxed and in their own space, not always but often they will work much better in an environment that is natural to them. A place that holds their personal power.
There are few disadvantages as a general rule, unless of course you choose unwisely. Again the person you choose to sit with is the most important factor. A bad choice has the potential to be worse than drinking alone.
Drinking home alone (or with a sitter)
In essence this seems to be the most fool hardy way to approach drinking Ayahuasca. Although it doesn’t always end badly, going it alone arguably carries the highest risks. First of all you must source and brew the materials yourself, ensuring you get the correct dosage. To do this as a first timer will undoubtedly require a great degree of competency, and you’ll most likely be following instructions from the internet. Working with the plants and your intentions in a clear manner, in this way… It’s a Big Ask!
It takes a special kind of person to dive straight in like this. Although they do exist. You also run the risk of really messing yourself up by dabbling without proper guidance. I don’t say these things to scare or discourage, I say this to be clear on my feelings about this.
Generally speaking, drinking at home is a much better idea once you have a number of ceremonies under your belt. You may even have someone you’ve been working with and trust who is happy to supply you with Ayahuasca or the materials required for brewing. Being in your own home does have its advantages.
- It’s your home, you’ll see it for what it is, you’ll see yourself for who you are.
- You go to your own bed and wake up in your own home.
- It’s just you, no need to worry about the energies of others.
- If it goes wrong there’s no-one to help you, this being said, I’ve often found myself in ceremonies with others and I am the only one who can help myself anyway.
- There’s a higher chance of being disturbed by outside noise/interactions
- You will have to clean up your own mess :)
One thing I want to make really clear is I’m not telling anyone how to drink or how not to drink. That’s for each individual to decide for themselves. I simply aim to make the considerations clearer to assist people in making the choice.
Trust yourself and your gut instincts above all else.