"I'm going to tell you about it... But it's going to start getting weird."
That's the advice we received from one of the apprentice shamans at the Blue Morpho Retreat I attended in the Amazon jungle last week. He said people in our circles would be curious when we got back to civilization about the Amazon and why we were there. And he knows first hand how difficult it can be to articulate the "aya" experience to people who have not gone through it themselves. Most of who would never want to personally.
So before I start writing my posts about the ayahuasca ceremonies (for which there were five, therefore there will be five posts), I wanted to provide insight into what exactly it is we were doing in the jungle for seven days.
Who: Me. And about 30 other people (from the U.S., Russia, Australia, Sweden), as well as two master shamans, two lead apprentice shamans, three other apprentice shamans, and four to five locals who worked at the retreat.
What & Where: Blue Morpho Ayahuasca Retreat in the outskirts of the Amazon jungle, near Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is only accessible by plane or by boat.
Why: We were there for a variety of reasons to "cleanse and heal" through a natural process with shamanic healers guiding us.
How: By drinking a tea made from a medicinal plant (the Ayahuasca vine - also known as "the spirit vine") only found in the Amazon. After which the shamans would sing/whistle/play "icaros" (medicine songs) to take us on a meditational journey of the mind and self-discovery.
I have personally had a variety of "energy work" done over the years. Ranging from my Bikram yoga practice, to acupuncture, to massage, to seeing shamans across various states... All with a purpose to cleanse my body of stress, anxiety, mild depression, exhaustion... And this ayahuasca retreat was an extension of all of that. But a more aggressive one.
Because drinking the ayahuasca sends you on a journey through your mind, and with the help of the icaros, brings to the surface thoughts and visions that can explain why your body is stressed, is depressed, is anxious, is exhausted, etc.
In short, it relaxes you and can cause visions/hallucinations. But before you jump to "that's crazy - why would you do that" or "whoa! so cool! I want to trip out in the jungle!"... Let me tell you that while both of those reactions are perfectly normal to have, neither is an ideal reaction.
I get that for some the idea of "going to the jungle, drinking a medicinal tea that shamans in the Amazon have been making for thousands of years, and having visions" takes a leap of faith out of one's comfort zone. I mean, you're in the jungle. In a third world country. There could be wild animals, insects, reptiles nearby. Is it safe?
Blue Morpho provided an incredibly safe, productive, and informative experience. They had security, extra staff, as well as a number of shamanic healers available to the number of people attending the retreat as a guest. They were responsible with the talking and therapy side of the experience, the dosing of the ayahuasca to each person, and the answering of questions about the whole experience. It was perfectly safe. And they were very attentive to each individual's needs.
On the flip side, those that just want to come to the jungle and think they're going to "get high" will be sorely mistaken and disappointed with the experience. That is not what Blue Morpho is about, however they do get guests occasionally looking to do just that.
Let me be very clear...
If you just take ayahuasca, and omit the shamanic part of the experience - with the icaro medicine songs - you are just going to have a miserable time. There will be no therapeutic experience.
You will just be laying there, feeling sick. And probably getting sick. The side effects of ayahuasca (with or without the shamanic healing) can range from the following:
- Feeling intensely hot or cold
These are all forms of "purging" energy in your body. And you experience them with or without ayahuasca in your everyday life. When you do ayahuasca, though, they are ways to bring latent feelings and thoughts to the surface. And these "latent" feelings and thoughts can be positive or negative in association.
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to write this post before going into each of my "aya" experiences individually to explain why people would go and try this type of ancient healing.
And with that, I'll now get to writing up my experiences. I took great notes after each ceremony in my journey, as I had nothing but plenty of time to reflect and meditate about each experience.