How to prepare for Ayahuasca ceremonies

There is no right way to prepare for Ayahuasca ceremonies. Is there a wrong way? Quite possibly. Below I explain what I learned from the experience of my first retreat (12 days and seven ceremonies). Preparing for the second retreat will no doubt be different challenges.

This is not why you should do these things; there is already plenty of information and evidence. This is what worked and didn’t work for me.

Diet

There is a lot of information available about what to eat, and what not to eat, before your first ceremony, so I won’t cover it all over again here. I looked at what I thought would be hard to give up and started very early with that, then slowly moved on to the rest of the list.

First was caffeine, and it was easier than I expected. I reduced to one cup of coffee a day and took out all teas with caffeine. When I made coffee at home, I made half caffeinated and half de-caf (sacrilegious I know), then switched to completely decaf before stopping it altogether.

Next came sugar, and it was terribly difficult and continues to be so. I have no easy answers for you there. I found myself gorging myself on sugary cakes and biscuits until I hit the deadline so that probably didn’t help when I finally had to go cold turkey.

As you prepare for Ayahuasca ceremonies, eat as simply as possible, with lots of fresh vegetables. And don’t panic if you find you have eaten a little of something on the banned list. Just stay focused and try to make clean choices.

Emotional upheaval and observation

My experience was that big emotions and challenges surfaced in the month before the first ceremony. These were sometimes triggered by interactions with others. I could see myself reverting to my old patterns of stepping back and shutting down, while others lashed out. It helped that I was going to the retreat with a friend, so we could identify what was happening and support each other.

It was an interesting time of being able to observe the triggers and responses as they were happening. My resistance pattern kicked in and I found it hard to act on what I was observing. Journaling, meditation and/or a mentor may help illuminate these dark spots.

I tried to pay attention to what was going on around me. Be thoughtful within each moment and, as much as possible, create space for the growth that is beginning. It was challenging and at times I felt like I was unravelling.

Nature and connection

Being in nature slowly took root in my life. The beach, the bush, the garden – all played a part in bringing me closer to the earth. It wasn’t conscious; it just grew.

Perhaps I was paying more attention to my life or perhaps it was part of the great mystery of Ayahuasca connecting before the first ceremony had even occurred.

Stillness

Meditation, yoga, prayer, whatever practice works for you that will slow your mind, focus you on your breath and keep you present in the moment, is a great way to prepare for Ayahuasca ceremonies.

I lost my stillness practices in the weeks before I left for Peru and I know it added to the difficulties of the first two ceremonies. Next time I will hold more tenaciously to those practices and I will start much earlier to increase the presence of stillness and space in my life.

I recently began a daily meditation practice that is working for me!

Medication/Supplements

If you take any medication or supplements, seek advice from your retreat center. These can mess you up if they interact badly with the plant medicines. A good center will be able to give you clear advice on what to avoid and what should be okay to continue. I stopped everything in the two weeks prior to my first ceremony; playing it safe.

Like the diet restrictions, it is better to be safe in following the guidelines than risk the side effects of a bad interaction. You are probably reading everything you can about Ayahuasca, ceremonies and plant medicines so you will know there is evidence and history to support the restrictions.

Sex

Abstinence. Fortunately I was traveling quite a bit before I set off for the Temple so giving up sex before the ceremonies was comparatively easy.

It was the few weeks after the ceremonies that I found abstinence incredibly difficult. Not sure what to tell you there, other to to try to avoid the temptation and the opportunity.

Setting intentions

I still struggle with this. At the time, everything I read, or when I spoke to someone, I changed my mind about what my intentions would be and even having experienced seven ceremonies, I don’t have an answer for you, or myself.

Certainly it is worth contemplating your intentions and writing them down, crossing them out, writing them down again, tweaking and reworking as a way to prepare for Ayahuasca ceremonies. Surely this helped clarify the struggles and opportunities in my life. Maybe. Be aware that Mother will deliver what you need.

And for my second jungle journey

I am more scared and less scared than the first trip. More scared because I know what a life-changing experience awaits in all its glories and hardships.

Less scared because it is still months away and I am able to romanticize the experience while it is still on the vast horizon.

Click here for your Ayahuasca retreat packing list.

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Helen Barry

Helen loves the richness of people’s stories and sees them as the source of inspiration for strategies that support and develop their well-being. As a wellness coach, she uses listening as an effective prompt to guide people towards their own solutions.
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