The Amazon: Making Ayahuasca.

At 6:45am, the morning of our first full day there, drums were beaten to wake us up. As part of our journey at the jungle retreat, we had to make a batch of the ayahuasca tea for the week's ceremonies.

I rolled out of bed still wearing the yoga pants and tee shirt I had worn in the previous night's ceremony, and walked down to the brewing hut.

Some were already at work, washing leaves from medicinal trees that are added to the tea. Others were busy banging away on ayahuasca roots. 

I picked up a hammer and joined the beaters.

The roots were tough, thick and twisted. I had to beat the bark of the root off of them first. Then I had make sure it was softened enough to unfurl and untwist the arthritic-looking vine. When it was pliable, I pulled the vine loosely apart... Making it look shredded.

Then it was tossed into a large pot.

The root was mixed with the bark of a few trees.

As well as the leaves, including some tobacco (or so I was told).

Everything was brewed for a few hours over an open flame...

By the time the evening's ceremony rolled around, we had our freshly made batch to drink. 

"This is going to be strong," one guest who had been to the retreat many times before told me. "Did you see how broken-down the roots were when we put them into the pots? Lots of 'aya magic' has been brewed out."

Shit, I thought. I was really going to town with those hammers for a good 30 minutes. I received blisters on my right palm from swinging the heavy thing down. I had aya root bark caked under my nails, which left stains for a few days, from twisting the roots and shredding them.

But when I happily hammered away, I noted to myself, I put a lot of positive intention into those swings. 

"So maybe that will make it 'strong' in a good way?" I thought.

We would soon find out...