Excuse the crude title but I feel the sport of Ayahuasca bashing is becoming a popular internet click bait activity for gurus, psychologists and desperate journalists around the world. Many donning white or orange robes with dreadlocks or no locks, many for whatever reason seem to be called Jeff.
Non have actually drank Ayahuasca or been within 100 yards of a ceremony, but we won’t let that stop them being an ‘expert’ or ‘authority’ on the subject. And if they have their experience is limited to a small handful. They have perhaps heard a few stories or dealt with someone’s trauma, so it’s now time for them to voice their concerns online with the utmost righteousness and condemnation.
After all, they do have books and online courses to sell and Ashrams to feed. A bit of click bait around a controversial subject never does anyone any harm, however misinformed it might be, and if it drives website traffic up then who cares.
I am not sure what is more nauseating; the indignant yet threatened and fragile stance, the uneducated critique or the transparency of their intentions.
Ayahuasca is no utopia
This is the first thing I feel that needs clearing. It’s easy to get lost in the tales of temporary enlightenment and immense awakening to the stirrings of self. The insights, the healings, the revelations. Of course, there is all that.
And yet with thousands flocking to drink the potent brew, we perhaps forget the dynamic of shared responsibility. The meeting of spirits that is the Ayahuasca journey, where the humans and the plants meet, dance and hopefully harmonise with congruence, respect and understanding.
This is not always the case. As I’ve said before, years ago, Ayahuasca is no magic pill. It is a teacher and the teaching is not confined to or limited to the ceremony. Nor is it sugar coated and easy for our protective minds to swallow. It is here where the journey begins. The winding road towards greater understanding is by no means easy and not everyone is ready to embark upon that. Not everyone understands their limits, how fast or slow they can go. How to move with the teachings and see the steps that life is trying to show them. You spin the wheel you make the deal, there’s no turning back once cup goes to mouth.
It is work. It is not a hand out. It will not save you. It will show you the way, but you will be walking the path yourself. It is a choice.
"Ayahuasca is not for everyone, and even for the ones it calls, it is, once more, no panacea. The egoic personality, supported and threatened and egged on by the materialistic culture we live in, will seek to assert itself even in the face of new knowledge and new insight. Today’s cathartic realization may, by next week, become just a vague memory."
"Unless ongoing work is done to integrate the learning, what the Buddha calls our ‘‘habit energies’’ soon re-establish their dominance. And the world, we may be sure, will—because it is largely unconscious—seek to invalidate and suppress our consciousness. We can go back to sleep."
"No matter how profound our insights, how lovely our connections to our fellow travellers, how fervent our intentions; we can continue to generate suffering for ourselves and for others in our lives. But the beauty of it is, we do not need to fall back asleep. We now have choice."
-Dr. Gabor Maté, expert in childhood trauma, addiction, stress and childhood development
It has become increasingly clear that ongoing connection and support following work with Ayahuasca is a vital piece of the puzzle. Those who haven’t drank will not be able to understand what you have experienced and the why’s behind it. Being able to connect with people who have drank and who can understand, is an advisable priority for everyone that drinks. It is no-one’s responsibility to create this but your own. And if the centre or person you drank with does not provide it or facilitate it, you must find it for yourself.
There is not a shortage of integration coaches around the world, that have a wealth of experience working with plants. They are adept at clearing up the aftermath and cultivating understanding.
And then there are the famously well documented ‘Ayahuasca deaths’ so fervently leapt upon by our sensationalist media click whores. Though I am yet to see any actual evidence where Ayahuasca toxicity has been labelled as cause of death, we see - Man falls off a motorcycle a week after drinking Ayahuasca, Ayahuasca death. Man kills other person, Ayahuasca’s fault. Man drinks too much tobacco and dies, another Ayahuasca death, and so on.
I’m not saying Ayahuasca is 100% safe and or easy to work with, far from it. Due care in screening, set, setting, dosage, containing and supervision all needs to be given the utmost attention. There is a huge weight of responsibility on anyone that works with these plants. Not just for the people drinking with you but for the global Ayahuasca community. Any medicine carriers that don’t feel that responsibility should reconsider their intentions.
Ayahuasca may not be a utopia, but it is real. It won’t sell you promises to keep you in the cult. It won’t shit on other practices so it can line you up for a book sale.
It will give you exactly what you need to walk a more harmonious path. It will show you the crunch points where there are choices to be made. The uncomfortable and painful truths hidden beneath the veneer of pretence. The question is, are you ready for that? Are you ready to learn it and have it tested and re-tested in your daily life?
And of course… meditate, stretch in a leotard, chant to the universe, sit on the couch and speak of your troubles. All beautiful and helpful practices. Do what works for you.
There is no one answer or one way. Life is a rich and diverse tapestry. It is overflowing with experience, feeling and emotion. Enjoy it! Lift yourself, lift those around you. Stay away from the fear and finger pointing and focus on creating your fullest potential.