Journaling can be an incredibly valuable tool in your ayahuasca integration process. Writing has a way of unlocking deeper thoughts and understandings from our inner self. It can feel grounding, healing, soothing, to write things out.
The very process of writing—not for an audience, just strictly to yourself—clarifies thoughts and feelings, helping you recognise patterns that run through your life. In the course of this self-reflection, you may discover you know more than you realized.
Journaling is one way to assimilate the enormous amount of information revealed by ayahuasca, and to start to make sense of it in the context of your own life. Here are some specific suggestions for using writing as an integrative practice.
Keeping a Trip Log
ASAP, write up detailed notes of your ceremony. Doing this the day after can be a grounding practice. Don’t worry about creating a linear narrative or making ‘sense’ of everything; just write what you remember, perhaps chunking it into themes. Later, if you want, you can go back and arrange into some kind of order.
Although it may seem impossible to remember everything (ayahuasca experiences can be astonishingly multi-faceted), the very act of recording often yields more than you first expect. Be patient and write down whatever you do remember, staying open to the possibility of more showing up. You can include your intention, the contents of your journey, your physical and emotional state, as well as thought-provoking conversations, dreams and insights that may have occurred outside of ceremony.
One reason to keep a log is simply the process of doing it, and the way writing can release further insights. A second motive is to create a reference point for the future. Three or six months down the line, memories may be fading, but rereading your journal can vividly evoke the experience again, plugging you back into the intentions you set and the learnings you received.
Questions for Reflection
What follows is a list of potential journal prompts to use during and after an ayahuasca retreat—questions that may be helpful in inspiring and organizing your thoughts. You do not have to do them all. Pick the ones that pique your interest. Some of these you can return to, answering again as your understanding evolves.
Write down key messages and major learnings you receive— realisations, understandings, wisdom. Describe your before and after. Track your growth curve.
How does the world look different now, following your retreat? Nature? Modern culture? Other people? Important individuals in your life?
Did you experience struggles or conflicts in ceremony? Were there times you fought the medicine? What triggered this? What happened?
Moments of extreme love? Extreme fear? Explore the range of different emotions you experienced, and how these felt in your body.
What did you realise about your present life? Your relationships? Your work? Your family? Your body/health/diet? Things to do differently, habits to change, commitments to make? Journal a program for yourself.
What about big-picture understandings about the world? About humankind? Beyond?
In what form(s) did ayahuasca appear to you? How did s/he look and feel?
Write a letter to a close friend, describing yourself a year from now. Best-case scenario, if you get the support you need and do the work you want to do, what does your life look like? What do you look like; what kind of person are you in it? Write it out, and tune into this intention regularly, holding the vision of your future self.
How have things changed since your retreat? What have you understood/accepted? What are you still struggling to understand/accept?
What would help you in this process? What is needed in this situation (inner and outer resources?)
What are you grateful for? A gratitude journal, or an ongoing gratitude page you add one thing to daily, is its own practice.
Recall your intention. How was it addressed—perhaps in forms that were unexpected or not obvious? How are you still working with understanding this? If your experiences in ceremony feel disconnected or unrelated to your intention, imagine for a moment that somehow a secret, coded answer was delivered within them. Explain how this is so.
Look at the sequence of your ceremonies as a story. See the themes; reflect and expand on the whole journey. What is the narrative arc? Is the main character a hero or a victim, a fool or a sage? What is s/he is moving towards? What is the core struggle here? What does s/he need?
What is the story you told yourself at the Temple about your experience, and is it different than the story you have now? Again, what kind of support does the protagonist need?
What are your biggest challenges in integration? What are the toughest areas? The easiest? What positive qualities do you bring to the process?
A Few Last Thoughts …
Add inspiring quotes, lyrics, prayers, mantras into your journal. You can paste in images and pictures, or draw or sketch here. Dreams can make their way into your integration journal as well.
Sometimes you can come to an impasse in your integrative process. If journaling reveals you are stuck, seek out a session or a conversation to help you break free.
You don’t need to read what you write every time (it’s often better just to write and leave it), but it can be helpful to review your journal periodically, to assimilate information, recognise larger patterns, and generally keep on track. If you’re working regularly with ayahuasca, occasionally dipping back into accounts of past journeys can provide focus for future intentions, and offer clarity to your ongoing experience.
Journaling tips and suggestions: http://journalherapy.com/journal-cafe-3/journal-course
Lots of articles and links: http://www.journalingsaves.com/how-to-journal/
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Julia Cameron, The Miracle of Morning Pages