Personal Experience

We’re Not Made to Heal Alone

We humans need other humans—to call us on our stuff, to name our shadow. To see ourselves as we cannot. To initiate us into new paths and practices. And to support us through the rough ride that ayahuasca can bring, the retriggered trauma and angst-y feelings that can arise. Let’s take shadow work first. By…

Ceremony As Shitshow

A few weeks ago I sat through perhaps the most outrageous ayahuasca ceremony I’ve ever attended, a chaotic display of anarchy that was a true shitshow. Yes, chaos is a fundamental attribute of ayahuasca, and sometimes pure chaos is exhilarating. And my own experience that night was okay, even beautiful at times. But what I…

How Dieta Rewires Your Being

During my last half-dozen or so plant dietas, I’ve been experiencing a phenomenon I call ‘unfolding.’ It has something to do with the way my normal life, much of which is spent staring at a laptop screen, flattens my perception, collapsing my sense of dimensionality. Technically speaking, you might say I suffer from an overemphasis…

Ayahuasca Obfuscada

Work with Amazonian plantas maestras or teacher plants is almost always enlightening, but the process can be confusing, too. The language of plants is not exactly straightforward or clear-cut. They speak to us in non-verbal ways, through images and sensations that can be vague, diffuse, difficult to understand. Plant teachers move at a different pace…

Here are some details I might have wanted to know before my first cup of ayahuasca five years ago. (Despite the not-knowing, it’s all worked out perfectly okay.) 1. It can change your life, big time. And for the better, which is why a lot of people are turning to it. But the scale and…

Uprooting Trauma: Meeting Iboga

Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga) is a rainforest shrub of West-Central Africa. The bark of its root, consumed in powdered form, is powerfully psychoactive, triggering visions and deeply personal understandings about one’s life. Iboga is known as a formidable spiritual teacher who guides and instructs humans. In Amazonian terms, it’s a planta maestra, a teacher plant—one of…

Sulfur with a Hint of Chocolate

The first cup of ayahuasca I drank was dark brown, molasses-y and surprisingly sweet, about the viscosity of cough syrup. Bad taste? What are they talking about? I thought, a bit smugly. That was the first time. I did not yet know how each subsequent cup would become more difficult to down, tasting more and…

Family Secrets in Ayahuasca’s Light

Seven days into an ayahuasca retreat in the Peruvian Amazon, I’m not liking—no, let’s tell it straight—hating the guy who sits across from me in the circle. Mike’s smugness, his closedness, his know-it-all vibe are driving me crazy. And I know, reluctantly but well enough, that the qualities I am triggered by are actually inside…

Dieta Diary

I’ve been doing a series of plant dietas under the guidance of a curandero in the Peruvian Amazon. Every few months I fly into Iquitos, catch a moto out to Enrique’s place, and commence a retreat with whatever plant he’s chosen for me this time. Dieta involves drinking an extract of a particular ‘teacher plant’…