How to Prepare Yourself and Have a Safe Retreat Experience
It is definitely true that a unique travel experience can change your life forever. Either because being in a different country and learning from other cultures opens your mind to new dimensions, or because you decide to travel in order to learn more about yourself and your environment on a deeper level. Peru offers great opportunities to embrace your spiritual connection, exploring the Andean Cosmovision, its vibrant culture and incredible landscape. In this story, I am sharing with you my personal experience I had during my first Ayahuasca ceremony and tell you everything you need to know about it.
Rule #1: Don't have expectations and don't be afraid
I have always heard about the great benefits of the ayahuasca plant and life-changing experiences people had after their ayahuasca retreat. Before taking ayahuasca, I did some research to learn more about the actual effects and benefits, but there are so many different stories on the internet, good and bad ones, that I just got more confused afterwards. Then I decided to just focus on myself and my personal journey with the plant medicine. The first thing I learned was not to be afraid and not to have expectations - every individual has a different experience with ayahuasca and before taking it you cannot know what the plant is about to teach and show you. You can think about your personal intention you want to set, but you cannot expect that you will heal specific traumas during your ayahuasca ceremony; or that you see precise things about your future.
Besides, it is important to acknowledge that ayahuasca is not going to solve all your personal problems and traumas - you yourself already have to feel complete before; ayahuasca only opens a new door that you can go through if you feel ready. The ayahuasca ceremony will always be different as you have imagined or expected. I assumed I would heal specific traumas I had experienced in my life, but during my ceremony I had completely different visions. So, try to just accept whatever Mother Ayahuasca wants to show you and don't be afraid of what you might see.
Rule #2: Intention and diet: prepare yourself mentally, spiritually and physically
Since the ayahuasca ceremony is an unforgettable and overwhelming experience, it is recommended to prepare yourself well. Setting an intention can be powerfully grounding and helps to become clear about what you seek to learn or resolve through the experience. However, do not overthink it and do not have expectations about what you want to heal or see. Instead of focusing too much on formulating your personal intention, think about questions, such as:
What do I seek to learn? What do I seek to understand? How do I feel at the moment? What is difficult for me at the moment? How do I feel about my life? Why did I decide to work with ayahuasca?
Try to consider these questions more as a tool that opens your mind and gets you into the right mindset. Instead of setting a fixed intention, just think about these questions, take a moment to reflect and always keep in mind that you cannot control what the ayahuasca medicine is about to teach you.For your spirit and mind it helps to do spiritual practices that embrace your connection with your inner world. It is good to be in a peaceful environment, take walks in nature, meditate, practice yoga or breathwork, and more. Do mindful activities that help you be more aware and present before the retreat starts.It is very important to follow a diet before your medicine retreat. By reducing your sugar, fat, caffeine, alcohol and drug consumption, you become increasingly aware of your actual feelings. Even though the word sacrifice has a bad reputation, it has the word “sacred” in it. By abstaining from your pleasures, you automatically create a sacred intention. So, it is not about suffering, but more about remaining humble and aware of your inner self.This also refers to abstaining from any sexual activity. Sexual energy is one of the most powerful manifestations of life-force. When we reach the point of orgasm, this vital force is sent either into our partner, or into ourselves (depending on whether you are intimate with your partner or alone). No matter how good it feels, it can be a way of depleting ourselves. The shamanic healers recommend abstaining from sex to be able to build up this power and stay focused on our intentions before our ayahuasca ceremony.
Rule #3: Find a safe retreat center that you feel comfortable with: the Etnikas Center
During your ayahuasca ceremony you are just focusing on your inner journey and disconnect from the outer world. This is why it is incredibly significant to find a very safe place with a professional team, where you feel in good hands. Travel and Healing only works with the Etnikas Ayahuasca Retreat Center because they are the only ones that combine the Andean cosmovision with the Amazonian healing medicine, and provide one of the safest ceremonies worldwide. The Etnikas Center is an integrative medicine center that works with indegenous healers from the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest, and the health ministry of Peru has recognised their authenticity and responsibility for their services.
Etnikas Ayahuasca Retreat Center located in San Salvador.
The retreat center consists of beautiful rustic houses, each of them surrounded by nature and the high mountains of the Sacred Valley in San Salvador. When I arrived there, I immediately felt the peaceful atmosphere and vibrant energy. It is the perfect place to just focus on your inner healing process and spiritual growth, without having those distractions that usually keep you busy.
Before the actual ceremony starts, the medical team asks you to fill out a medical report with a doctor. You can either choose to go to a doctor by yourself and let them fill it out for you, or you can do the medical examination at the Etnikas Center. Upon arrival at the center in San Salvador, the staff welcomes you warmly and you participate in several group sessions and individual consultations. They are making sure that you feel ready for this transformational experience and explain every little detail. During our group session, we talked about any questions and doubts, and I remember that afterwards I didn't feel nervous anymore because I knew that Mother Ayahuasca would teach me what I needed to understand, no matter what exactly I would be seeing.
Then, we walked down to the river and performed a Cleansing Ceremony with Andean Maestros. The shamanic healers sprinkled water all over my body with some Andean plants, removing the negative energy and blockages I was carrying with me. When I closed my eyes, I thought about everything I did and focused on forgiving myself. Suddenly, I felt at peace with myself and very calm. We walked back to the main building of the center, and had another medical examination. There was a team of nurses and doctors that checked our overall health condition. For example, they were doing an ECG to evaluate the heart condition of each participant. Afterwards, I had a private consultation with a psychologist, who asked me about my previous experiences with hallucinogenic substances and personal experiences that affected me in a way, to make sure that I felt mentally ready and to be able to support me in case I would experience difficult moments during my ceremony. Then I walked to the main room, where the Shipido Shamans and staff were waiting for me, and made myself comfortable with my water, sleeping bag, pillows and mattress.
Ayahuasca retreat experience with Shipibo shamans from the Amazon and Maestros from the Qeros Nation of the Andes.
What Ayahuasca taught and showed me
I started to practice a meditation technique that the Etnikas team were showing to us, a meditation based on the principle of unconditional love (in Quechua: MUNAY). Having a positive mindset and nurturing yourself with love and gratitude helps you connect with Mother Ayahuasca and Mother Earth. Then the ceremony started and I drank the medicine; it is just one single shot of dark-brown liquid. I closed my eyes and continued with the meditation to embrace my inner connection. The ceremony was guided by the Shipibo Maestros, they started to play their instruments and sang beautifully in their own language to guide our trip. Approximately after 40 minutes, my visions started little by little. At first I only saw colours and different shapes, later the visions became clearer and I saw specific situations and moments. Of course, it is almost impossible to describe what I saw during my ayahuasca ceremony, but I will try to share my main visions with you.
At the beginning, I connected my whole being and essence with Mother Ayahuasca and the jungle by becoming a plant. When I looked down at my body, there was a moment in which I noticed that I was a beautiful, powerful plant. The more I looked at my green body, the more I understood how nature was, and felt the sadness and happiness of Mother Earth, the plants, and the jungle. I felt the pain that we as human beings were causing to Mother Nature; all the damage we do to her. I started to realize the beauty and wonders of the whole existence of everything; the circle of life, and how everything is deeply interconnected and working as one complex organism, consisting of many individual organisms. It is an incredible experience not to only understand this deep interconnection, but to actually really FEEL this pure essence of life and nature.
Then, I started to clean my body by vomiting. This was the moment when all my visions changed to my personal life, and I could feel the presence of God. God started to talk to me and told me many important things about myself, my family, and my personal decisions in life. Also, he started to show me all my illnesses and negative things about myself and my body, pointing out to me what I needed to heal. I started to receive spiritual messages about myself and about the loved ones that are surrounding me, especially about my family and partner. At the end of my ceremony, I just received all the good energies and positive sensations of the plant, filling my spirit up with love and positivity. It was such an unforgettable and beautiful experience!
When the ceremony was over and the effects faded, I just felt pure, universal love towards myself, everybody and everything. This feeling did not stop afterwards, I kept on feeling like this for at least one more month after the ceremony. I strongly felt this positive energy of pure love that was nurturing me. Something changed after my experience with Ayahuasca. I feel like I am now perceiving and feeling each moment with my heart, just taking it in and feeling it with a lot of gratitude towards myself, Mother Earth and the whole cosmos. I learned that I should think less with my head, think less about my problems and focus less on being stuck in my life. Instead I should feel more with my heart, feel each emotion with its pureness and focus on the solutions and the things that I am capable of doing! I am so grateful for this unique opportunity that I had thanks to ayahuasca.
I hope I could help you understand a bit more the essence of ayahuasca and how an actual ceremony works. Just remember not to be afraid and accept to receive everything that the plant medicine wants you to learn. I recommend you to do an ayahuasca retreat with Travel and Healing, they supported and guided me through my transformational process from the beginning till the end. They were taking care of me like a family! If you would like to know more about spiritual experiences with the Inca plant medicine Ayahuasca, just click HERE for more inspirations and information. You can either choose to participate in an ayahuasca retreat only, or combine it with other mindful activities in Peru.