****WARNING: Parental Discretion is advised****
After having an amazing hike on the Inca Trail and learning a lot about Peruvian history, we decided it was time for some spirituality. I had done some research prior to visiting Peru and found some information about a drink Shamans use in ceremonies to expand their consciousness called Ayahuasca.
Before I get into our experience, here is some information about Ayahuasca. It is said to have originated in the Amazon rain forest approximately five thousand years ago. They say drinking Ayahuasca allows you to see visions of a higher consciousness, a reality that cannot be observed in everyday life. This medicine is meant to help people reach another level of awareness allowing them to grow or heal. The Ayahuasca brew is usually concocted by Shamans and is made up of mainly two plants, the Ayahusca vine and a shrub called Chacruna.
After deciding that we would like to try an Ayahuasca ceremony, I started to look for a reputable Center. Unfortunately most Centers only offer week long retreats or longer, which would have been amazing but was unfortunately out of our budget. We pretty much gave up on the idea until one day we were walking down the street and Rye yelled to me, “Hey…look up.” We had accidentally stumbled upon a store called Centro Ancestral Inca Shamanico Amazonico Espiritual (CAISAE) that had ‘Ayahuasca Ceremony’ in big bold letters on the sign. So we went in and had a look around. They sold lots of organic spices, chocolate, teas and medicine. The gentleman working didn’t speak much English so we collected all the information we could from him, then grabbed a business card and went home to do a little research.
We learned that CAISAE does offer just an Ayahuasca ceremony, performed by a shaman with a maximum of 6 participants. The previous research we had done taught us that the fewer people participating the better because it can be a very intense experience and more people means more potential chaos. The goal is to have a nice calm environment going into the ceremony so a max of 6 people was perfect. So far this option looked great, the only problem we had was that there were absolutely no comments online about this particular center. The only thing we could go off of were the testimonials on their actual website, and of course those comments are are all positive. But, we decided to take a leap of faith and sign up for a ceremony.
We went back to the store to sign up and met with a lovely lady named Joanne who explained what the process was going to be. First we had to completely change our diets, cutting out coffee, sugar, spices, alcohol and dairy for a week prior to the ceremony. Oh yeah, and of course no sex too.
The next step was to take place the day before our ceremony. We were to do a ‘Volcanic Cleanse’ by drinking 9 pints of medical volcanic water. Let me tell you, this was by far the worst part. First of all, the water was brought to us in an unmarked jerrycan and came out very murky. We were told to chug it to avoid tasting it but the taste was unavoidable. It was kind of like salt water…not refreshing in the slightest. About 3 glasses in, I was sick to my stomach and not long after Rye was too. About 6 glasses in and a few walks around the block to help the process along, the water was finally starting to go through us….literally. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that ‘Volcano’ is a perfect word to describe it.
After the trauma of our cleanse we went back home to rest for the next day! Our last step to prepare was to fast the entire day of the ceremony. We were only able to eat between 6am – 7am and our diet was restricted to fruit. The entire day was filled with anxiety and anticipation. The experience of drinking Ayahuasca is different for everyone so we really didn’t know what to expect. We spent the day researching and meditating to keep a calm frame of mind. At 5pm we arrived back at the CAISAE store where we met our shaman and his wife. We were told that we were very lucky because our Shaman was one of the oldest in the world. Typically Shamans only only live until around 75 because the work they do is so strenuous, but our Shaman was 82 and 1 of 5 elders remaining in the world. He was actually not supposed to be in Cusco that day but a landslide prevented him from going back to the jungle so we felt very lucky to be in his presence.
We drove to the Sacred Valley with both the Shaman and his wife as well as Joanne who assisted with the ceremony. It was dark by the time we got to the house and we apprehensively walked in. Immediately we were given a place to sit and some tea and told to relax while they set up. After about an hour Joanne came down stairs and took us aside separately. We discussed what we wanted from the experience and reminded to stay positive and open minded during the ceremony in order to get the most out of it.
We were finally called upstairs where we met the other three individuals participating in the ceremony. The room was filled with mats on the floor for us to lay on and we each had a pillow for our heads. The smell of incense burning filled the room as the Shaman and his wife entered wearing authentic garb. Flower water was placed on our foreheads for protection and cleansing. The Ayahuasca brew was prepared by the Shaman and portioned into glasses. The Shamans wife then delivered each of us a glass that we graciously accepted and threw back as quickly as possible to minimize the bitter taste. Then we sat back and meditated waited for the effects to take shape while the Shaman and his wife sang and chanted in harmony.
What happened next will remain personal. I will say that for us, it was an absolutely worthwhile experience filled with positivity. We learned a lot about ourselves and about the importance of an open mind and open heart. It is important to note that not everyone has a positive experience like ours and trying Ayahuasca may not be for every person. With that said, each person’s journey is their own personal experience and the only way to truly understand Ayahuasca, if you’re interested, is to try it yourself.
Please Note: If you are interested in trying Ayahuasca, please complete your own research and find a reputable place that you feel comfortable with. As with anything of this nature, there are always risks involved and its best to be as informed as possible.