How A Session Can Support Your Process
Integration helps you focus on the whole picture of your work with ayahuasca; not just the ceremonies, but the entire trajectory—so your work can be as complete as possible. Remember, it’s not just ayahuasca you’re working with: it’s ayahuasca + your individual psyche + your personal history, and thus a unique experience.
Someone who’s experienced with the medicine and familiar with the ins and outs of psyche, emotions, and shadow can contribute a lot to the process. Call it therapy, consulting, or coaching, it’s a chance to sit with someone skilled and unpack your experience—making connections, sorting through messages, defining next steps, and exploring how you can bring this all home.
So: why integrate?
1. To maximize the impact of the work you’re doing. Integration deepens and strengthens what you’ve learned in ceremony, grounding your understandings in real, true ways. And indeed, none of this really means anything unless it’s changing your life for real.
2. To enquire and explore, making meaning of your experience. By linking what came up in ceremony to your early experiences, imprints, and traumas (intergenerational trauma can play a role as well), you’re making connections with your life, and your deeper self. Integration work organizes and clarifies your experiences, generating a map of your internal territory that can help things fall into place.
3. To develop new skills and practices supporting your growth. It could be breathwork, or meditation, or qi gong; Focusing, or dreamwork, or emotional processing—there are countless ways to work with mind, heart, body, and spirit, many of them discussed in the Integration Toolkit section of this website.
4. Reciprocity. Integration work is a way of demonstrating respect to the medicine, by taking responsibility for what you’ve learned. It’s a way of saying I take this seriously, and I honor what I’ve received. Your gift may be the release of old behaviors and beliefs that no longer serve you, or the birth of a new way of living.
5. Connection and support: It’s not uncommon to feel isolated and alone with your ayahuasca experiences. Simply having a listening ear, someone who understands the territory and can offer compassionate support and connection, can help a great deal. If you’re feeling exceptionally sensitive in the aftermath, we work together to hold and normalize your experience, creating a container for it. You won’t always feel this raw, but the moments when you do deserve respect, and protection.
6. To stay connected to the work: Back home after a retreat, you may be feeling a gap between your daily life and your ayahuasca experiences. Integration helps you to focus on the work at hand, to connect with your original intentions as you evaluate and move forward. And it can help you identify the next step—which is really all that’s necessary. We don’t always need to know the big picture, as long as we acknowledge what we need to do right now.
7. To prevent backsliding: You may need to release old habits and/or start new routines. Integration support can help backstop this process, by helping brainstorm how to set goals and organize the work to be done—and by helping to hold you accountable to your commitments.
8. To clarify confusion: The messages ayahuasca delivers are not always straightforward: sometimes you’re left wondering, “What does this all mean?” Like dreamwork, interpretation requires a delicate touch, and a gaze that’s open to both metaphor and the realities (sometimes obscured) of your life.
9. Shadow guidance. The unconscious is by definition … well, unconscious. It’s everything we don’t know, and generally it’s unknown for a reason. Having an outside perspective, another intelligence to shine light on these dark places, can help in the hard work of bringing Shadow to the light.
10. Bridging cultures. Ayahuasca comes from a different cultural context, and translating the process into your own life can take some work. Ayahuasqueros are not always able to help with the integration piece—they may be unavailable, speak a different language, or perhaps it’s just not their skill. Holding a good ceremony and working with integration are different arts. To weave an understanding of the work that the maestros do together with our Western mindset requires the ability to bridge both cultures, respecting the realities of each.
11. Paying it forward. Working with ayahuasca is meant to change us, and through us, to change the world. We’re meant to share what we’ve gained, not through proselytizing, but through humble service. In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. election, the recognition that now is the time for us to show up fully, to give what we’ve come here to give, shines forth clearer than ever. The radical transformation of consciousness that ayahuasca engenders touches the collective, and through us, the planet.