Ayahuasca: The Retreat, the Ceremony, the Healing

A guest post by Wendell Lewis. Wendell is a good friend of mine who has an honest and informative way of talking about ayahuasca. This post was originally part of an email exchange between us, which Wendell gave me permission to publish.

Ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi

The ayahuasca vine, Banisteriopsis caapi (photo © Paul Hessell, flickr.com)

Well, I just returned a few days ago from a brief medicine retreat at a remote farm up the hills from here [Tarapoto, Peru].

I am here getting healthy. I am walking the medicine path.

Now, I know that all healing is self healing. Nevertheless, it helps to have help! Plant medicine is strong medicine! It’s helping me to fix my self.

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“What is Ayahuasca?”

Some folks ask me: What is plant medicine? What is ayahuasca?

The plant medicine is composed of not only ayahuasca. It is a blend. There are other plants as well.  Ayahuasca is the master plant.

I’m finding that it is not something mystical. Rather it is quite scientific. It is a psycho-tropic medicine which brings one’s awareness into contact with a higher sense of self. Through this, you may explore within yourself and find guidance toward your own answers to the problems you are having in life.

That’s not to say that it is an easy experience. Taking a dose of medicine induces a powerful psychological and physical effect. Firstly, a florescence of emotions and ideations which may reach to the limits of your capacity. Then there is also often a physical reaction. It is common to have a need to vomit. Everyone is given a small bucket and some tissue in case of such an occurrence.

The word ayahuasca translates into English as ‘the vine of death’. Sometimes it feels like an assassin, a Shiva-like destroyer of illusion. It kills your head trips and mortifies your ego. Then it pulls out the sickness from your guts. It’s a purge of the body and soul. It’s difficult, and it hurts. Then, after a while, it feels much better!

The Ayahuasca Ceremony and the Healing Process

This begs the question, why would you do that? The answer is, it isn’t necessarily for everyone to do! It is not for casual recreation or curiosity. It’s medicine. When you take it, it takes you! You have to be well prepared to engage with it. It is not a magic bullet to solve your problems in one fell swoop. It requires serious work. It’s a long term process.

The sessions are referred to as “ceremonies”, not because they are religious, but because they are offered in reverence and are seriously intended to transform the participants. They are in the context of a tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years.

The curandero offers his songs called icaros in a mood of invitation to the spirit of high consciousness. He is not a personal guide, but rather a keeper of the space within which you may find your own inner guidance. When taken with an open mind and heart, the medicine may reveal a great internal depth and impart a new perspective.

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Brewing ayahuasca

Brewing ayahuasca (photo © Paul Hessell, flickr.com)

It shows you a mirror that reflects that which, once seen, you cannot unsee.

It reminds you of the wisdom you already know, but fail to remember.

It extracts that which makes you sick, and connects you to what you must embrace to be well.

It facilitates your letting go of the old burdens you have been carrying.

It brings to your consciousness the grief you had repressed and had been carrying within you all your life. It also connects you with the suffering of mother earth, pacha mama. Through deep contact with the sorrow, one discovers the joy.

Yes, sometimes there may be visions. But in fact they are not so important.

What matters is the darkness from where the visions come from. The vivifying shadow, within which one finds the creative anima. You must enter this crucible, with fear in one hand and faith in the other, into the dark night from where authentic self-knowledge emerges. This is where you confront both what you have hidden, and what you are hiding from!

It imparts to you a certain knowing of something that is for you, that is yours, and is you.

And, after all, it leads you to a feeling of humbleness and quiet, and gives a deep sense of gratitude and renewed clarity of purpose.

The medicine is not the cure! For me, the key to the medicine is what I do with what I’ve learned. I have to carry out the teaching that it plants into me. There is “homework”. It shows me what I need to get about doing in my life. There’s a progression from session to session.

I don’t believe it’s ever finished!


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