I visited Spirit Vine for a retreat in early July 2018. I had little previous experience with psychedelics (or drugs for that matter), I am not particularly spiritual and am not a religious person. I work in finance. I don’t have big problems. I am rational. But I was interested in learning more about myself and breaking some behavioural patterns that I kept repeating. I was not sure what to expect, and you could describe me as slightly sceptical overall. Still, I thought it was worth exploring, and having researched that the side-effects and negative consequences of drinking Ayahuasca are virtually non-existent, I signed up.
If you really want to, you can find Ayahuasca in your own country and drink it in a one-off ceremony. What you will get is a pretty intense avalanche of sub-conscious images, some painful, some pleasant, with perhaps a surge of compassion and a little bit of ego dissolution. It is difficult, however, to extract any lasting value from such an experience, particularly since many places don’t meet the most basic requirement of making you feel completely safe.
Spirit vine goes a long way to solve this. It is a beautiful place, comfortable, well-run and managed with care. It is set in the middle of the Atlantic jungle, and some of the most beautiful and least populated beaches you can find in the world are just a 5 min drive away. More importantly, the way Ayahuasca is treated at Spirit Vine is, in many ways, pioneering. Generally speaking, by the time we reach adulthood, we all carry baggage with us that we either picked up when we were children or that we have picked up along the way as we have grown. Some carry a lot, some carry a little. But we all have behavioral traits that we are not completely satisfied with. Ayahuasca opens up a window on this baggage and asks the question of whether we want to deal with it or not. However, dealing with it require certain tools, which is why Silvia at Spirit Vine has integrated Ayahuasca in a wider psychotherapeutic (read: introspective) program. She blends Western psychotherapy theories with shamanic techniques in her workshops (don’t let the word “shamanic” put you off, it’s all pretty sensible stuff) to give you the tools to deal with your subconscious on your own.
This makes the whole experience much more valuable and long-lasting, so that you can go back to your own life and continue to benefit from what you have learned at Spirit Vine. I read somewhere that a good sitter (the person running the Ayahuasca ceremony) is someone you trust; but a really great sitter is someone who loves you. I think this is the main point to highlight: generally the most basic thing you need if you’re going to take Ayahuasca is to feel safe and to trust the sitter. But Silvia and Rohan at Spirit Vine go well beyond this. You have the feeling that they love everyone who visits them, and they go to great lengths to give you the tools to manage your life in a more assertive, fulfilling way.
When integrated this way, the whole experience is less scary, more manageable, and ultimately far more valuable; however, at the end of it all, the person who comes out of this experience is still you. It doesn’t turn you in to someone you don’t want to be; it doesn’t show you random hallucinations just to make the experience scary. For my part, I still work in finance. I still don’t have big problems. I am still rational. But I got to take a good look at my subconscious and at my own self. In many respects it felt like I was properly doing so for the first time, and it has made breaking out of certain flawed behavioral patterns far easier. I would repeat the experience at Spirit Vine in a heartbeat, but even if I never manage to go again, what I have learned about myself there will have made my life much more fulfilling. There are not many reasons why most people should not benefit from such an introspective experience at least once in their lives. No need to fit a stereotype – this is incredibly positive for anyone’s personal development, and there are not many experiences you can say that about.