Ayuhuasca: A Guided Tour Through One Woman’s TripLEFAIR
From pop culture to the world of alternative medicine, ayahuasca has been a trending topic lately. Taken as a tea in a ritualistic ceremony,it hasbeen used for centuries in Peru and is associated with intense visions and spiritual exploration. Whether seen on the Netflix series Chelsea Does or in the pages of Vice, stories about people’s experiences with ayahuasca have been capturing the public’s imagination and interest. While individual experiences may vary vastly, there are some common themes, intentions, and outcomes. Like most psychedelic drugs, it has an air of mystery because it can be so difficult to explain to someone who has never tried it. LEFAIR Magazine was fortunate to chat with Anna (pseudonym) and get a first-hand look at the fascinating and occasionally terrifying details of an ayahuasca experience.
To understand ayahuasca, it helps to set aside what we may know or assume about other mind-altering drugs like acid/LSD, mushrooms/psilocybin, or molly/MDMA. First off, ayahuasca is not considered a recreational drug. Instead, it is taken as part of a spiritual journey where people are often seeking enlightenment on personal, physical, and emotional issues ranging from addiction to relationships. Consequently, there is no party atmosphere, but rather one of ceremony that may include a shaman, music, and singing. Instead of escapism, think self-reflection. First-timers may not know exactly what they’re getting into, but there’s an expectation of a deep personal experience that may include visions, memories, and other sensory hallucinations.
In episode four of Chelsea Does, Chelsea Handler and two married friends, Dan and Brooke, travel to Peru specifically to try ayahuasca in a private ceremony. Dan and Brooke had planned to do it years before, but postponed the trip due to pregnancy. Similarly, Anna was first invited to do ayahuasca years before she actually decided to go for it:
I first heard about ayahuasca from my trainer. There’s a psychotropic chemical in it that he was very interested in. I wanted to do it and started researching it. I changed my mind over the course of a few years. I kept hearing about it from friends and they’d all say how amazing it was.
Before the ceremony, the shaman tells them to eat less than usual and avoid sexual contact. Like Dan, Anna maintained a healthier diet for weeks before her first experience:
I watched a couple documentaries and read some blogs. I was trying to eat super clean and I didn’t eat a lot the week before. I didn’t want to throw up and now I realize throwing up has absolutely nothing to do with what’s in your stomach
I showed up with a bunch of strangers. I was pretty freaked out because I didn’t know exactly what ayahuasca was. I was feeling pretty skeptical about it because I thought, How will I know? What happens? What’s the event? They kept describing it as the mother, the mother ayahuasca. Is a woman going to come to me? Nobody would tell me anything.
Before we went into the ceremony, the shaman wanted us to write down our intentions for the night. Why were we there? I had written down three specific things, all having to do with some troubled relationships in my life. I wanted some insights, some perspective.
“I had written down three specific things, all having to do with some troubled relationships in my life. I wanted some insights, some perspective.”
I sat down and drank the tea. In this particular ceremony, we were given three opportunities to drink the tea. The first one, we all drank together. An hour and a half later, there was another opportunity. The shaman wanted me to tell him on a scale of 1 to 10 the intensity of the tea I wanted. I took a 6. An hour and a half went by and I wasn’t feeling shit. I got frustrated. The people around me were throwing up and weeping. I felt super chill, but other than that, nothing.
“They feel extreme temperatures and emotions, often getting overwhelmed at some point. What follows is exhaustion, rest and then clarity.”
She came. She came and she took me down, down, down. I remember being very, very scared. I started to feel this very strong female presence. She basically took my wrist…It was very bright, like there was a light show all around me.
For days afterward, you’re thinking about it. There was a lot of reflection on my responsibility in these relationships in my life. It was like a mirror was being held up to my face. You can deceive a little bit in therapy. With this, there’s no lying or hiding. You have all your baggage. She shows you how to drop it and move forward. Everything really comes down to a lack of self-love. I’m very aware now of how much I’m governed by my head and my ego while my heart is silent. Now I can let that go. How can I better serve the people in my life?
“…the work begins the day after the ceremony.”