What I Learned the First Time I Used Ayahuasca

    Delving into the world of energies, the unconscious, and the Amazonian worldview

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    Ayahuasca is a plant medicine that is frequently used in rituals and ceremonies of the amazonian peoples. Due to its psychoactive properties, the concoction has gained a certain popularity among travelers, who go to communities in the jungle to heal or to delve into the world of energies, the unconscious, and the Amazonian worldview.

    In 2015 I isolated myself in a cabin on the banks of the Mayo River, in the jungle of Peru, to drink, together with two other people and our shaman, this drink, also called the “rope of the dead”.

    This is what I learned from that experience:

    1. Ayahuasca does not cause hallucinations, but rather takes you on a journey to the unconscious.

    Due to its chemical composition, ayahuasca is considered an entheogenic and non-hallucinogenic substance, which means that the altered state of consciousness it produces connects us with our most spiritual part. Etymologically, “entheogen” means “being inspired by the gods”. That is why it is usually taken to connect with sleeping or blocked parts of our unconscious or to connect with the sacred in the world.

    2. It is not the ayahuasca that produces the “trip”.

    The psychoactive substance that modifies our state of consciousness is DMT and it is not found in the ayahuasca rope, but in the leaves of a low jungle bush called chakruna. Our body (which by itself secretes DMT in very small quantities, for example when we are newly born) has the ability to neutralize the effect of the psychoactive substance. That is to say: the chakruna by itself cannot cause us anything. Ayahuasca is the one that has the ability to block the enzymes of our liver so that DMT is successfully metabolized.

    The curious thing is that ayahuasca is the only plant in the jungle (among millions of species) capable of blocking these enzymes in our body. How did the shamans know?

    3. The shaman is the mediator between the visible world of things and the invisible world of energies and spirits.

    My shaman is called Braulio and I met him because my glasses broke and I had to find someone to fix them for me. And say with him. He was a small, dark man, with gold plated teeth and a liquid look (that of those who know many things but do not need to tell anyone). With him we agreed to do a ceremony on his land by the river.

    No matter what you ask a shaman, he will always end up answering whatever he wants. We, the outsiders, come with such a desire to know everything, to know what is in that other invisible world that is there but that we can barely touch, that we do not stop launching questions like arrows. However, shamans know that each one must find their own answers and they practice their role as guide very well.

    The mission of the shaman is to direct the ceremony, that is, to call the spirits (especially the spirit of Mother Ayahuasca) so that they heal us with their wisdom and show us what we have to see.

    4. All natural elements have a spirit or anima.

    For our Western mentality, it is very difficult to accept that a tree, a stone, or something even more intangible, such as the wind or the ocean or the mountain, have a spirit that lives in each of their parts. However, the Amazonian worldview considers that each element has its own soul, with which human beings relate in equal conditions (the end of Western anthropocentrism that humans are the owners of the world).

    In ayahuasca ceremonies it is these souls that come to help us “see”. Under the effects of DMT our sensitivity to the invisible is enhanced and we are able to intuit or even see those spirits. Many times we recognize the figure of the old Mother Ayahuasca, a little witch with rough skin like the rope itself (her personification on Earth). It is also very common for the boa, the viper and other snakes to appear: they are protective spirits of the jungle. The way that the shaman has to communicate with them is through their icaros or songs (the language of the Universe).

    5. It is absurd to continue thinking that the invisible world is a copy of the visible world.

    Ghost movies have suggested to us that if we see a spirit we will find a copy of its physical form, but in a semi-transparent version. Nothing further from reality. In the same way that the visible and physical world is very complex and is made up of millions of particles, from an atom to a mega-star, the invisible world also has its own hierarchies and forms, which are very difficult for us to understand and accept. In my experience I discovered that my way of noticing or feeling the energies and spirits, especially during the shots and in the diet process, it was through the skin: tingling in the hands, sensations of physical discomfort, passing air, etc.

    6. It is very important to diet before and after taking.

    As a medicine, ayahuasca has its own instructions for use. One of the most important is to follow the process from the beginning to the end. Depending on the area where you take ayahuasca, the shamans will have a different way of preparing you for it, but there will always be a diet to follow. That is: abandon “harmful” or “strong” products such as meat, milk, coffee, alcohol, and even sugar some time before taking it and also for periods ranging from one week to three months after taking it. .

    This happens because in the jungle ayahuasca is taken more as a purge than as a connector with invisible worlds, that is, to cure bodily illnesses (such as gastritis or even cancer). The diet, therefore, prepares our body to arrive as clean as possible to meet the plant.

    7. The hardest diet is the human diet.

    During the rest period after drinking, the shaman will tell you how long you should be without seeing, talking, touching or of course having sex with another person. It’s simple: through physical contact we link our energies and it is counterproductive, after a “purging” or cleansing ceremony like this, that other people who have not taken (“who have not been cleansed”) are close to us.

    To break the diet (both food and sex) a procedure called “raccooning” is followed. It consists of burying food or your partner with jungle tobacco or “mapacho” with the aim of cleaning them and protecting us. The spirit of tobacco is protective and is very present in all the ritual ceremonies of the jungle (it is also a powerful emetic).

    8. You have a bad time, you have a good time, you enjoy yourself, you fear, you vomit, you heal.

    The experience with ayahuasca is integral and in all likelihood, it will provoke very diverse and contradictory emotions in the same shot. Ayahuasca stirs us up inside and brings to the surface things that we like about ourselves, as well as problems or traumas that we have blocked. It is important not to think of this in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but rather as part of a complete healing. The shaman is always there to guide you and so you don’t get scared. Choose it well: it must be trustworthy.

    9. Ayahuasca is not a tourist attraction.

    Those who want to drink ayahuasca for fun, should refrain and choose another substance. Throughout the jungle there are scammers who sell ayahuasca in small bottles so that everyone can consume it in their own way. Please do not do it. The presence of the shaman is crucial, as well as an attitude of respect towards medicine, Amazonian culture, and ourselves.

    10. There are many very interesting testimonies of the searches that human beings undertake through this medicine.

    For example, the Ayahuasca Letters, a book that brings together the correspondence between the North American beats William Burroughs and Allan Ginsberg about their journey through the Amazon delving into the taking of ayahuasca or yagé (it is also a beautiful book of travel and research).

    11. The true teaching is only one.

    Love. No matter how many questions you have to ask the plant, no matter how many problems you want to solve, no matter how many traumas you want to overcome, the lesson that the plant teaches you is the only one: if we live through love (unconditional love for everything exists, if we feel part of that Whole) we will be living in harmony with the Universe.

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