Art by Dima Yastronaut
Art by Dima Yastronaut

What to Expect from your First Ayahuasca Experience

You can read a hundred or more Ayahuasca stories, and you still won’t really know what to expect from your first Ayahuasca experience. “Expect the Unexpected” is a trite, but accurate summation of all the most important aspects. Yet while every journey is unique there are some themes that are common, and it’s helpful to have some solid ground to stand on before jumping off into infinity.

Common Experiences with Ayahuasca

The tea is not the most delicious drink you will taste – Many people who have tried ayahuasca find that the more times they drink ayahuasca the tougher it is to ingest. Some centers provide lime and ginger to overcome the feeling of nausea that may be induced by the tea.

There will be some degree of purging – Nausea, vomiting, and crying are all possibilities. So are other effects. Most centers provide a bucket and have bathrooms located near the ayahuasca ceremony room and helpers available to get you there and back if you need them.

So far, so bad…round about now you might be forgiven for wondering why anyone would choose to put themselves though the ayahuasca experience. But in fairness, if you were to judge childbirth purely on a description of the physical experience, no one would do that either. And many people report that ayahuasca has given them something akin to rebirth. As with childbirth, there are things you can do ahead of an ayahuasca ceremony that will help you get the best from it.

Preparing for Ayahuasca

Physical preparations – A period of healthy diet and no alcohol, tobacco and caffeine will definitely make the physical side of your ceremony easier. The less toxins you have in your system before you drink the tea the better.

Emotional and spiritual preparations – Your mental state going into your ayahuasca experience will have a profound effect on what happens during it. Meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises or yoga are all recommenced ways of centering yourself before your first, or indeed any ayahuasca journey. Reading accounts of those who report nothing but mind-numbing terror is only going to make you have the same reaction, so you should not indulge in such activities as watching news or anything that may disturb your mental balance.

Do it when you’re ready – How do you know you’re ready? It is common to hear people talking about the “call of ayahuasca” and just knowing that it was the right time. This call comes in the way of a feeling or an intuition. You may start reading and hearing about ayahuasca everywhere and all of a sudden.

You can look for retreats that offer activities which are complementary to ayahuasca without being overly stressful. Remember that ayahuasca itself is a very intense experience, so having a lot of other activities can lead to draining your energy. This is undesirable because your energy is vital to a productive and deep ayahuasca experience. Some centers such as Spirit Vine in Brazil offer workshops during the retreat that help you prepare and navigate the ayahuasca ceremony which is very helpful for people who are new to the experience or are looking to go deeper into it.

After you do your research and find a center, here are some signs to check if it is the right time:

  • You feel that you can trust the center and the facilitators where you will be attending
  • You are ready to commit to the diet
  • You have an intention to transform a certain aspect or your whole life
  • You are ready to follow through and do the work to make the changes in your life based on the insights and information received during your ayahuasca retreat

On the Night of your Ceremony

You should be feeling serene, expectant and peacefully prepared to accept whatever it is ayahuasca shows you. You should also be in a calm and supportive environment with experienced facilitators or shamans who you have confidence in. Ayahuasca ceremonies are generally held at night in a ceremonial hut known as a Maloca. You should be provided with a comfortable mattress to sit or lie on. Having basic physical comfort is a great way to begin your journey with ayahuasca, if not then it may create unnecessary reactions that lead to a bad trip.

How Long will it Last?

There’s no hard and fast rule, but somewhere around about 4 hours is the normal length of the ceremony. The effects of the revelations provided by Ayahuasca usually last much longer. For that reason there’s a lot to be said for taking Ayahuasca in a well organized retreat, where you’ll have the time and support needed to process the experience. It is also advisable to take some time off after the retreat to relax and reflect on the insights received during the retreat. Choosing a place with natural surroundings and a low stress level is very beneficial to this process.

More Information

Learn more about Preparing for Ayahuasca and the Ayahuasca Diet.

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