People come to ayahuasca for all sorts of reasons, from simple curiosity to the profound desire for change. You may be struggling with depression, anxiety, or the residue of trauma; looking for deeper insights into chronic patterns; or sensing some mysterious limitation that blocks the freedom to be who you really are.
Working with ayahuasca can offer a remarkably rapid route to the depths of the soul. It’s a Roto-Rooter for the psyche, clearing out a lifetime of trauma, buried memories and psychic debris. These are not always dramatic revelations: sometimes it retrieves something from the past that we’ve discounted as unimportant, because it matters in a way that we’ve overlooked.
The psycho-spiritual epiphanies that ayahuasca instigates serve to recontextualise, illuminate and heal, but they don’t do the work for you. It’s your responsibility to navigate according to these new insights, and implement what you’ve learned. This is the process of integration. You will get out of it what you put into it.
It’s important to note this path isn’t for everyone. Disqualifiers include antidepressant use (SSRIs), drug use, mental illness (including a personal or family history of bipolar disorder or psychosis), and certain heart or liver conditions. Participants need to abstain from alcohol, drugs and sexual activity and follow a clean diet (no salt, sugar, pork, or foods high in tryptamine), in the days before and after ceremony.
Ceremony itself can be a lengthy and intense experience that brings moments of fear or confusion. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do this work at a deep level, to bring the gold up into the light. This is the Hero’s Journey that Joseph Campbell elucidated, the archetypal myth of the brave spirit who descends into darkness to bring back the treasure.
DMT, the active substance in the brew, is illegal in most countries, and is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S. Ayahuasca is considered part of the national cultural heritage in Peru and Brazil and is legal for spiritual and shamanic usage there, as well as Ecuador and a few other places. In North America and certain European countries, member-only ayahuasca churches associated with Brazilian syncretic traditions have won the legal right to hold ceremonies. And there are many underground ceremonies being held throughout North America, Europe and beyond.
As a psychotherapist, I work exclusively with integration: I don’t serve ayahuasca, or suggest places that do. If you are considering working with ayahuasca but are wondering if it’s for you, I offer a consultation to explore your hopes, fears and motivations. Together we can look at whether this might be right for you at this moment in your life. If so, we explore how to best prepare; if not, I can recommend alternative growth paths and practices.
My view of ayahuasca is shared with the native people of the Amazon—an intelligent spirit that works within the human organism to cleanse, heal, and teach, shedding light on what we most need to know. At the most profound level, it can give you a vision of yourself in your true nature, the open, loving awareness that resides at the core of all beings. For many people, this is the most remarkable gift—to finally experience their own essence as worthy and complete.