Ayahuasca is a very unpredictable medicine and one cannot anticipate what they will experience on any given night. In fact, your ayahuasca experience will likely vary from one ceremony to the next.
While most people know of the incredible visions ayahuasca can bring, journeys with no visionary component are common. This does not mean that the medicine is not working or not healing you. Visions are not necessarily an important part of the process, and “vision seeking” can be a form of resistance and interfere with deeper healing. It is more useful and productive to pay attention to what is happening, instead of lamenting or trying to create something that is not.
The goal of this work is long-term positive change. It is not about tripping or having a cool experience. What is important is that your life is better eight months to a year down the road for having done this work.
The ayahuasca experience can generally be described as falling into one or more of the following categories: Visionary, Energetic, Insightful, Healing and Just the Purge.
The visionary ayahuasca experience usually begins with a period of brightly colored geometric patterns. This is more of a DMT effect than the work of ayahuasca, and it will usually pass within 15-20 minutes.
Each person’s visionary experience will be different. However, we have found that during our 9-day and 12-day ayahuasca retreats that there are some common themes and animals that appear. Scenes of the jungle, very large insects, snakes, jaguars and pumas, scenes of Egypt, indigenous people of the amazon, and shaman from North American Indian traditions are all commonly part of the visionary ayahuasca experience. It is also common to be taken into outer space or the galaxy.
If the mariacion (effect of the medicine) is very strong, you can be taken into other realities or dimensions. During the ayahuasca ceremony, you may lose contact with this world and be fully immersed in another realm. While some people love this type of ayahuasca experience, others find it frightening. It’s important to remember that it is just an experience and you are safe. You will not be harmed and you will return. Our shaman recommend focusing your attention on the singing of the icaros, allowing the songs to act as an anchor, connecting you back to this reality and the ayahuasca ceremony.
Most visions do not take you to another place. Although they can be very vivid and clear, you remain aware of your presence in the maloca healing temple and can easily focus on the ceremony or sounds of nature, if you choose. It is possible to interact with the beings that appear, while knowing it is a visionary ayahuasca experience. The visions may also be milder – more like watching a movie – as you see things pass before your inner eye. Sometimes the visions are grey scale, colorless, or they may be so mild we just see shadows moving around without clearly defining what they are.
With this type of ayahuasca experience, you may feel a large amount of energy course through your body. People often say it feels like snakes or vines, or they get a sense that the medicine is scanning their bodies and cleansing specific locations.
While in the ayahuasca ceremony, you may become very aware of the energy in the maloca, including the energy of other people. Or, the energy of nature may be felt so strongly that the sounds of the jungle at night seem to come alive and vibrate within.
This type of ayahuasca experience provides lessons about your energetic nature, so that you can learn to work with, and manage, your own energy, and carry these lessons into your day-to-day life.
This ayahuasca experience is characterized by a deep inner reflection. Events of the past arise for you to ponder and examine from new perspectives. We learn how these events impacted us in ways we had not seen before, and how our own choices have often led to the problems we face in life.
We may learn how our actions and attitudes impacted others in our lives. Ayahuasca has a way of holding up a mirror and forcing us to look at ourselves in ways we cannot deny nor hide from. This can be uncomfortable when we are shown parts of ourselves we do not like, but it is an important part of the healing journey. It can also show us beautiful aspects we have not fully accepted. Our friends and family are usually very aware of these qualities, both positive and negative, that we have not yet acknowledged.
The people around us are also mirrors of ourselves. When we see something in another person that irritates or annoys us, we almost certainly have those same qualities and behavioral patterns inside us. This is also true for the things we admire about others. The ayahuasca experience brings these hidden qualities to light, allowing us to make more informed choices about how we want to show up in the world.
The healing ayahuasca experience may include a combination of visionary, energetic and insightful journeys. This experience is unique because it is very clear to the individual that healing is occurring. This can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Deep purging will often occur.
You may have the experience of being in surgery, literally on an operating table with spiritual beings around you working on your body. This is not a frightening experience. It is mostly a fascinating one, as you may feel the positive changes while the spirits are healing you.
People typically feel quite different the next day, lighter, as if a huge weight has been lifted from them. They feel more positive, more accepting and loving of themselves.
This is definitely the least popular of the ayahuasca experiences, however it usually happens in the first one or two ceremonies. You drink the medicine, feel nauseous, perhaps heavy in the body, and then vomit. Not much else happens.
The first couple of ceremonies are primarily about cleansing and purifying the body. By the third ceremony the ayahuasca experience usually begins to open up, but it is possible for the purge to persist.
Ayahuasca cannot move everything. There are energies that can completely block it, energies that ayahuasca just cannot shift or move through. If the blocks continue, a purge with tobacco can be very effective in clearing the energies that prevent ayahausca from working. San Pedro also has the ability to clear energies that ayahuasca cannot, and we have seen people’s ayahausca experience open in a big way after a San Pedro ceremony during our ayahuasca retreats.
To get the most from this medicine, it is best to come with an attitude of acceptance, surrender and willingness. Trust the medicine and allow it to do its work without resistance. We naturally resist things we find unpleasant, but the difficult times are when surrender is most important. We are powerful beings and have the ability to block the healing effect of this medicine. Resistance is the primary way we do that.
If you are drinking ayahuasca with a skilled ayahuasquero, a true healer, you can be assured that whatever you experience is for your good. That does not mean you will like it. This work can get very unpleasant and difficult, however, the benefits are worth it.
In your time with ayahuasca, surrender to the medicine, trusting that whatever experience you are having is a necessary part of the process of healing. Persist and move forward in faith, even if you feel not much change is happening. The medicine spirits really do know what is best for us and they want to heal us. Our job is to allow them to do their work. As is often said, ayahuasca brings you what you need, not what you want.
Remember that your ayahuasca experience will be very personal to you, and it may vary from one ceremony to the next. These categories are very broad brush strokes intended to describe typical experiences that most people have over the course of 3-6 ceremonies.
Being informed of the range of possibilities allows us to more easily set aside expectations when a journey is not unfolding as we may have hoped, and makes it easier to accept what does come, letting the medicine do its work. Our attitude is very important: trust, surrender, accept and allow. This is how we get the most from our time with ayahuasca.