What is Ayahuasca

We have drunk the Soma; we have become immortal;
we have 
gone to the light; we have found the gods.
What can hatred and 
the malice of a mortal do to us now;
O immortal one?”—Rig Veda (c. 1,000 B.C.E.)
Ω

Humans have had a relationship with mind- and body- altering plants since prehistoric times. A harmonious relationship was developed with these plants that had a great influence on people and the cultural development of numerous societies and civilizations. Soma was the divine medicine of the Brahmans of the Indus Valley, and in the early scriptural writings of the Rig Veda more than 120 hymns are devoted to this entheogen’s heavenly visions and teachings. In ancient Greece, we find the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult of plant-based group ecstasy. The Mysteries tell of the veil of ordinary existence  being ripped away to reveal the sacred and bountiful truth of the gods.

Indeed, many of the miraculous stories, myths and legends of the ancient world have their roots in the usage of these plants, as do the stories of prophesy, miracles and visions of heaven, hells, gods and angels found in today’s established religions. And, you don’t have to dig deeply to realize that fairytales or stories of fairies, elves, gnomes et al were originally rooted in visions experienced by those who either knowingly or unwittingly ingested a psychotropic plant.

Ayahuasca (Yage/Iowaska) is an extremely powerful and sacred plant medicine that comes from the Amazon. It has been used by the indigenous people of South America for tens of thousands of years for the purpose of healing, divination and vision quest, as well as for warfare and witchcraft.

It is known that at least one of the plants used in the Ayahuasca preparation has been used for millennia. This plant, known by the botanical name Banisteriopsis Caapi, is a vine that grows throughout the Amazon and has been used by numerous cultures for its emetic effects and other somatic symptoms. The main botanical species this plant is combined with are the bush Psychotria Viridis (Chacruna) and Diplopterys Cabrerana (Chacropanga), but many admixtures are used in traditional recipes, such as tobacco, varieties of Brugmansia, Brunfelsia, etc.

It is the DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) in the leaves of the Chacruna or Chacropanga plants that is the active ingredient in bringing on the visions. However, the DMT-containing plants remain inactive when drunk as a brew without a source of monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) such as the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine.

Botanists have found approximately 20 different types of vine. Shamans classify the vine differently—it varies from tribe to tribe. Some curanderos name the vine according to the colour of its flowers while others decide the name on seeing the colour of the vine after they scrape it. However, the taste, intensity of the visions, energy and healing varies from vine to vine.

In Europe and North America, Ayahuasca Analogues are often prepared using non-traditional plants that contain the same alkaloids. For example, seeds of the Syrian Rue plant can be used as a substitute for the Banisteriopsis Caapi and the DMT-rich Mimosa Hostilis is used in place of Chacruna. At Ayamorphosis we use both the Ayahuasca Analogue ingredients as well as the traditional plant material, which we responsibly source from the Amazon Rainforest.

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Ayahuasca is an Amazonian sacrament that is becoming increasingly popular among Westerners. Some people are drawn to the medicine by the prospect of a psychedelic trip while others are looking for specific healing as there are reports, some of them scientific, that Ayahuasca can help cure addictions, particularly to Heroin, Cocaine, Crack, Alcohol and Nicotine.

There is also evidence that this sacrament has healed people with sugar and junk-food addictions, binge-eating and other eating disorders, as well as cured those struggling with OCD, PTSD and other trauma-related behaviours. Some Ayahuasca users say they have been able to lose weight or overcome grief, burnout, damaged relationships, phobias, depression and/or anger issues. Others say Ayahuasca cured them of fatigue, anxiety, panic attacks, shyness, lack of confidence and other psychological/emotional/creative issues and blocks. There are also reports that this medicine, rather like some other entheogens, has helped terminally-ill patients come to terms with their death.

This plant medicine is also credited with being a panacea for a host of physical ailments. There are claims that Ayahuasca has slowed the symptoms of —and even cured—Alzheimers, Parkinson’s Disease and Diabetes. Some people state that their cancer went into complete remission after an Ayahuasca session. But, it is also true to say that scientific research into Ayahuasca is still very much in its early days. Meanwhile, Ayamorphosis makes no guarantee that you will be relieved or cured of any of the above addictions, illnesses or psychological issues.

Ayahuasca can sound like the easy solution to personal problems but really this medicine is a tool which, if used properly, can catalyse a therapeutic or personal growth process, as well as increase your creativity. It is therefore wise to come to a ceremony fully prepared and with clear intentions about what you want to achieve. But it is also often said that: ‘Ayahuasca may not give you what you want, but will certainly give you what you need.’  So, Ayamorphosis does not claim that you will have any miracle cure or that all your desires and intentions will be fulfilled, but you will certainly never be the same again. And, we do guarantee that you will have a wonderful and unforgettable time with us.

I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit.
We may choose not to access it, but it is 
indeed there inside us,
and there are chemicals that 
can catalyze its availability.”— Dr. Sasha Shulgin, PIHKAL
Ω

Some people who participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies are not coming for any particular healing. They may be participating simply out of curiosity.  It may be their first experience with a mind-manifesting medicine, or the person may actually consider themselves a fully-fledged psychonaut, someone who loves the thrill of exploring their own mindscape with psychedelics. These people are keen to examine their interior life and are inspired by ‘meetings’ with Jungian archetypes. Psychonauts enjoy coming ‘face-to-face’ with different life-forms, from Mechanical Elves to Dribbling Basketballs and aliens. They get a buzz from journeying through exotic spaces. You may also travel through what the world’s Shamans, including the Buddha, refer to as the Upper Realms, Lower Realms and Multiple Realms. It will be astonishingly real—more gripping than any VR video or AR game you have played. It can also seem surreal. Ultimately, it can appear surreal yet even more real than ‘reality’ itself. You will experience the Multiverses that today’s Quantum physicists and Super-String theorists talk about. Your limited view of who you are, your ordinary everyday life and view of the World, will more than likely be shattered after just one journey with Ayahuasca, but you will survive to tell the tale.

Every person is different and a large part of our internal thought processes and emotions are unknown territory. This is where Ayahuasca can have its function: it can allow an individual to gain more awareness of their emotions, thoughts, behaviour, body and relationships. This increased self-awareness can facilitate a process of adjustment of these different aspects, resulting in an overall improvement in life.

Ayahuasca is often referred to affectionately as simply Aya by the indigenous, mestizo, rural and urban populations of South America. The Medicine is viewed as a goddess, an Earth goddess, a kind of Gaia, one who may seem harsh at times but a goddess who is ultimately full of compassion and love. Certainly, once you have been rocked in the arms of Aya you will never forget the experience. Parts of your journey may be difficult at times. You may purge (vomit and/or have diarrhoea), but it is usually those who experience the toughest journeys who transform and transcend the most.

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The Ayahuasca Ceremony

The purpose of taking [Ayahuasca] is to return to the uterus … where the individual ‘sees’
the tribal divinities, the creation of the universe and 
humanity,
the first human couple, the creation of the animals,
and the 
establishment of the social order.”— Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, Anthropologist
Ω

What happens in the ceremony

The sessions are interconnected in spirit, embracing the shamanic, mystical-religious and therapeutic processes of healing. The session is usually led by Mary, who also serves as a sober guide. There will be at least one other sober guide to assist participants during the Ayamorphosis Weekend/3-Day Circles. During the Ayamorphosis 6-Day Vision Quest there will be at least two other guides to assist participants.

The first night of the Circle/Vision Quest is time for you to settle in, get to know each other, and then participate in a Group-Bonding session with a short-activating sacrament unless it is decided to serve the Mother Medicine on the first night. Ayahuasca is generally offered on the second night of a Circle/Vision Quest. We hope that everyone will have arrived by 6 p.m. on the first night, giving you all plenty of time to unpack and relax a little before the ceremony starts, which will usually be between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

First, candles and incense are lit to put us in a meditative mood. We will meditate for a short while before having a Group-Sharing. At this, participants share their intentions for the session and why s/he has decided to participate. Once the sharing of intention is finished, the chosen Medicine will be blessed. This will be done in silence, waving incense over the sacrament. You will also receive a blessing to cleanse you of any dark energies.

The Ayahuasca brew is taken orally. The taste is generally described as being intense and unpleasant, which marks the beginning of the physical change that Ayahuasca provokes. As Mary invites you to take your cup of Ayahuasca you will focus on your intention before drinking the brew. The amount of the brew given will be according to the need(s) of each person. If you wish for a smaller initial dosage you can make this known to Mary prior to the ceremony. You may wish to gulp the medicine back in one shot, quickly, as many people do not like the smell or taste. Others are used to both the smell and taste, some even like it, and prefer to drink the medicine in several small gulps.

Incense and flower water (Agua Florida), a type of perfume with a characteristic odour, may be sprinkled on you before, during, or after the ceremony. Please let Mary (or the other guide) know if you dislike the smell of incense or perfume. They will refrain from using it on you if you do, or may refrain from using it entirely during the session. However, many people like the perfume as it can bring a positive, cleansing energy to the process of healing. It can also odorize the room to cover up the smell from the purging.

When all participants have taken the Ayahuasca, often a moment of silence follows until the beginning of the experience. Classical music, ambient or World Music music may be played during the ceremony to guide your experience. Mary may also chant (Zen and Pali Buddhist chants) or sing Icaros while shaking maracas. And, at some point she may drum. Music, drums, rattles and chanting will be followed by periods of silence. Sometimes the sessions work with more silence than sound, and sometimes vice versa, depending on the energy and needs of the group and individuals.

Usually, the Ayahuasca visions will come on within 15-60 minutes of drinking it. After approximately an hour Mary will invite you to drink more if you are still not experiencing visions, or if you would like to drink more in order to move even deeper into your process. The extra cup of Ayahuasca is optional. You do not have to drink more medicine if you don’t want to.

shamanessskullIf the intention of the session is to cure an illness, Mary may perform a healing ritual such as waving incense smoke or a feather over you for purification. If the intent of the session is simply to have an experience with Ayahuasca, she does not do this type of intervention unless she feels it is conducive. She will also occasionally offer some kind of massage to those who may benefit from it. Generally, however, people are not encouraged to touch each other while journeying so as not to disturb a person’s process. Do not touch others unless they invite you to touch them or obviously need assistance (the guides are on hand to help you). It is also important to lie down during the session and ask for assistance to walk to the toilet/bathroom if you do not feel you will be steady on your feet. A third cup of Ayahuasca is sometimes taken during the session while there is chanting followed by periods of silence until the effects of the medicine have worn off. At the end of the night there will be a closing ceremony and Mary and/or the guide(s) will announce that the session is over. Participants can then either rest where they are or go to their beds to further process their experience and/or sleep.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”—Helen Keller
Ω

Effects of Ayahuasca

The medicine induces an altered state of consciousness in which the drinker frequently experiences emotionally charged visions. The experience can bring up recollections and images of one’s past. Repressed memories can also come to the surface. Individuals can work with this material, restructuring related thoughts and emotions and integrating them in their current way of living life. The experience can also include archetypal, transpersonal, mystical and perinatal content.

The effects of Ayahuasca are emetic, frequently causing vomiting and diarrhoea, which is referred to as the purge: an emotional and physical cleanse. You will be provided with buckets to vomit in.  The buckets will be used inside the room where the ceremony takes place. Most people are able to cope on their own with the buckets and are able to walk to the toilet by themselves. But you will be assisted if you face any difficulties. We will keep a good eye on you throughout the session The principal effects of Ayahuasca wear off approximately 2 – 4 hours after ingestion, although they can become prolonged if you take more than one round of drinks. Once the effects subside, you may feel fatigue and/or find yourself going though a phase of introspection. From the physiological point of view, Ayahuasca moderately increases the heart rate.

The Ayahuasca experience can have different phases. Sometimes, exploring one’s inner world can be accompanied by emotional pain or other forms of suffering. It can also be accompanied by a release of stress. Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear participants crying or expressing this release in sessions, especially those oriented towards healing.

The Session

One must explore deep and believe the incredible to find the new
particles of truth floating in an ocean of insignificance.”—Joseph Conrad
Ω

For most people, an Ayahuasca experience is an introspective experience, most of which is spent looking ‘inwards’ with closed eyes, although the group element plays an important role. It may be that you feel uncomfortable being surrounded by a group of strangers with whom you will share the session and so there will be a ‘Group-Bonding/Sharing Time’ earlier in the evening, prior to the ceremony, so that you can get to know your fellow journeyors. Getting to know each other before the ceremony as well as sharing group intentions often helps to relax people. However, if you prefer not to do ceremonies with strangers you can select to do a private 1:1 Ceremony or Private Group Session with Mary alone and/or with guide(s).

There are many types of Ayahuasca depending on its preparation, and Ayamorphosis uses a range of brews with different plants. Each plant has its own effect that adds to the overall experience. So the duration and the intensity of the Ayahuasca experience can vary greatly from one session to another depending on the content of the preparation.

Large doses of Ayahuasca are not usually given on the first drink of the night to people taking the medicine for the very first time. We prefer to make first-timers familiar with the effects of the medicine first before offering more of the sacrament either later on in the session (or on the second night during the 6-Day Vision Quest). However, your dosage will be assessed and can be discussed after you have completed the application and registration process. You will be considered suitable for larger doses of Ayahuasca at an Ayamorphosis Weekend/3-Day Circles or during an Ayamorphosis 6-Day Vision Quest if you are familiar with Ayahuasca, consider yourself an experienced psychedelic-user or are someone who has positive experiences with other entheogens such as LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline, San Pedro or Peyote.

awakenedbrainThe Ayahuasca experience produces changes in the way reality is perceived. The texture of reality can become brighter, more colourful and composed of patterns of luminous energetic vibration. The beginning of the experience is usually when one notices with both eyes open and closed that the textures of reality change. Also the appearance of a buzzing in the ears can announce that the psychological effects are approaching. While having the eyes closed, the experience is much more intense than with eyes open, although with open eyes the change in the texture of reality is always noticed. A common strategy, in fact, when the content of the experience is too intense with eyes closed, is simply to open the eyes, which dampens the effects. During the course of the experience, visions usually appear with abstract motifs but also clearly identifiable sharp images. Emotions are perceived more profoundly and one can access forgotten memories. There are people who experience paranormal phenomena as telepathy or precognition. Regardless of whether these effects are really paranormal, the truth is that subjectively these are common elements of the experience.

Also fears or difficult emotions can appear that may be accompanied by blockages in the body (pains, tension, etc.). The best thing to do in tough times is to breathe slowly and deeply, go with the music, drumming, chanting and/or silence and have confidence in the process induced by the medicine and the facilitator. It is normal, especially in the case of beginners, not to have visionary effects in the first sessions, but this is not always the case. It seems that in some cases, it is as if the Ayahuasca visions need some kind of visual and cognitive learning process before they can be fully experienced.

Ayahuasca also modifies the habitual way of thinking. When one is not experiencing visions s/he might believe s/he is not experiencing any psychological effect, while the truth is that an external observer would clearly notice such effects. So never leave a session because you think you’re not experiencing any effect. It may simply be that you have no visions but that your thinking process is altered. If you’ve decided to take Ayahuasca, whatever happens, do not leave the session until we have authorised you to leave. It is better to spend some time being bored than end up in an accident because you wanted to leave abruptly before the end of the session. We keep a good eye on you, not allowing you to take any risks, as psychological effects may manifest intensely after having left the room while being alone. Ayahuasca is a powerful plant; take it with respect even if you think you are not having any effect. For some people, it takes time for the effects to be noticed. Please trust that Mary and the guide(s) will have your safety and best interests at heart at all times.

Many consider Ayahuasca as a mirror of the inner self, where, in the same way that internal conflicts may surface, so may surface your wonderful sides. When this happens, the experience can be of indescribable beauty.

It can sometimes happen that you have feelings of paranoia during the course of the experience. The Ayahuasca experience is not linear; rather, it goes through different phases, some more pleasant and others more difficult. As in any journey that is undertaken in life, there are moments of laughter, moments of sadness, moments of euphoria, moments of sudden insights and revealed truths, and moments of boredom and disappointment. Clinically, symptoms may appear similar to those seen in mental illness, primarily suspicion, paranoia and ideas of self-reference (“everyone is looking at me” or “this or that happens because somehow I induce it”). These effects are normal during the time of the experience and are transient. The appearance of these effects is proof that these are experiences that happen to all of us at times in our lives for whatever circumstances, and although they can be uncomfortable, you can deal with them. Learning to deal with whatever comes up is always the best attitude for an Ayahuasca session. And most importantly, do not hesitate to ask for help from Mary and/or the other guide(s) when you feel that you need it. That is what they are there for.

It may also happen that you find yourself immersed in perinatal states, as described by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof. The term refers to perinatal experiences related to the birth process. During an Ayahuasca experience, one can relive the birth process itself, the biological delivery. According to Grof, birth marks the first traumatic event a human being has to face. He says it is the biggest trauma that any of us face in life. Grof describes this experience in four phases, or Basic Perinatal Matrixes as he calls them, which correspond to different stages of labour. Perinatal experiences can be very challenging and involve physical sensations such as breathlessness, pressure by contractions, pain, and psychological experiences of death and rebirth, existential void, psycho-spiritual rebirth, etc. These experiences are the basis for many of the rites of passage of ancient cultures.

While the Ayahuasca experience lasts approximately 4-6 hours, depending on the number of times you drank the brew, the moments of confusion and disorientation or feeling of lack of control over the experience usually do not last for more than 30 minutes. In any case, the usual perception of time under the influence of Ayahuasca can be altered considerably. Time, as we experience it in ordinary states, may even cease to exist, so it is one’s own subjective time that governs the experience.

The Purge is Part of the Process

Some people refer to Ayahuasca as La Purga (The Purge). Vomiting and diarrhoea are part of the journey with this powerful medicine. The Purge is an important, almost legendary, part of the ceremonial experience, yet not everyone does actually purge in the ceremonies. However, it is nothing to be scared of. Do know that you will be well cared for. Buckets will be provided for you to vomit in, and our guides will be on hand if you need help to the bathroom or toilet.

The Purge is essentially a spiritual cleansing as well as a physical one. It can remove deep spiritual and emotional blockages and toxins. People usually find that once they have purged they move into deeper spiritual experiences as the blockages are removed. Some people purge near the start of the journey while others may purge nearer the end, or not at all.

However, the Purge should not be confused with ordinary vomiting to relieve gastro-intestinal distress or nausea. If you feel nauseated, you may be tempted to induce vomiting to relieve the nausea, but if you resist the temptation and allow the Ayahuasca to decide when the Purge should happen, then deep spiritual toxins may be released along with the physical matter.

There is a danger of vomiting too early, before the medicine is completely absorbed, and losing the effects. This is a simple physical reaction, and it often arises within 20 minutes of drinking the brew. You should resist vomiting for at least the first 30 minutes. Also, avoid drinking water or eating for several hours before the journey to reduce the possibility of premature vomiting. If you have followed the diet you are more likely to vomit less, or even not at all.

We advise people coming for a ceremony to not eat after midday on the day of an Ayahuasca ceremony. Usually, you will first drink Ayahuasca on the evening of the second day of the Ayamorphosis Weekend/3-Day Circles and Ayamorphosis 6-Day Vision Quest. Generally, on the first evening of your arrival you will eat and there will be breakfast served the next morning.

We will only ask you not to eat after midday on the first day of your Circle/Vision Quest if we decide to offer you Ayahuasca that first night. Most likely, on your first night you will have the opportunity to journey with another sacrament, a more short-acting one. This sacrament will be taken as part of a Group-Bonding session. After your travels to arrive for the retreat it is important that you eat, relax, bond, and get a good night’s sleep in order to have enough strength and stamina to work with Ayahuasca on your second night.

Some people have unrealistically high expectations of their first ceremony, hoping to see breathtaking visions at an early stage. Everybody is different. Most people do experience visions but it is not unusual for some people to see no visions at their first ceremony. Your persistence, patience and determination will lead you to the more visionary states after you have carried out considerably essential physical and emotional healing. You will often experience profound emotional and psychological work: clearing your mind and body of negative energy that has built up over the years, and often seeing various emotional traumas and crises in a different light and from a different angle.

You will experience profound healing whether you experience visions or not, but it may take time for you to fully integrate and appreciate the healing you receive. It is impossible to outline exactly what will happen to you on your own personal inner journeys. Everyone is different and will experience their own unique journey.

Incredibly vivid visions may come to you often revealing profound knowledge to you about your place in the universe, the plant and animal kingdoms, and perhaps even revealing life in other dimensions and galaxies. After considerable work, the spirits of the plants and the Spirit Doctors, who are often ancient shamans in their spirit form, will reveal themselves to you, and, depending on your intent and level of commitment, they may choose to work with you to help others. Please note that this level is not normally achieved on a first-time retreat.

After the Ceremony

Upon finishing the session, we advise you to rest or go to bed to sleep. We do not allow you to leave the premises, to drive a car or ride a motorbike/bicycle. We also do not recommend that you go off walking either. It is important that you rest, stay with the group, or go to your room.

You may be more sensitive than usual to external stimuli and you might feel emotionally mixed. Eating something light and writing the contents that emerged during your experience before bedtime may be helpful for the integration process. It is certainly useful to keep a journal of your experience while on retreat with us.

Later on, either after or during breakfast, we can have a Group Sharing. If you have experienced any particular difficulties or are struggling with integrating the experience please feel free to ask Mary for a 1:1 private counselling session. She has some experience as a counsellor but is not a professional therapist. However, she is more than happy to listen to you and help you understand and integrate your process.

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After leaving the Retreat

Ideally, it is best to reserve a few days after the retreat to rest and be comfortable.  Planning a few days in a nice relaxed environment for after the session is a good way to prepare the ‘landing’ of the experience. It is likely that you will experience a physical/psychological ‘high’ for a few days after the ceremony/ceremonies. However, some people may feel tired and need to withdraw or spend time in nature or a more tranquil environment. Looking after yourself is of paramount importance.

Safety

The safety of our guests is paramount. We are constantly working to offer the safest container and most effective healing experience. Ayamorphosis’s commitment to guests begins with in-depth medical and psychological screening during our booking procedure and continues after the retreat through our integration support.  Guiding you safely through deep personal healing and growth is our priority, both in and out of ceremony.

Present scientific research indicates that the use of Ayahuasca by healthy individuals is relatively safe from the physiological health perspective. However, it should be taken into account that no clinical trials have been done in relation to the safety profile of Ayahuasca in people who suffer health problems. For example, it is demonstrated that the effect of Ayahuasca on the cardiovascular system is moderate in young, healthy individuals, but older subjects with heart problems might experience a different reaction.

Risks & Exclusion Criteria

Physical Safety

The alkaloids present in Ayahuasca interact with the serotonergic system in different ways: the beta-carbolines, for example harmine, are inhibitors of the MAO enzyme, which has its role in the degradation of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Therefore, the use of Ayahuasca in combination with other serotonergic pharmaceuticals, such as antidepressants, can potentially cause adverse reactions such as the ‘serotonin syndrome’, which theoretically can have serious consequences for one’s health. While the possibility of such an adverse event occurring has not been confirmed, we advise that people receiving treatment with medications (including natural products), or under the effect of any drug that acts on the serotonergic system, are extremely cautious when considering taking Ayahuasca. You must inform us at the initial application stage if you take any medications (or natural products, herbs, vitamins) for depression or any mental illness. Please inform us of any psychological or physical conditions you have.

Physical risks

In medical terms, Ayahuasca has few contraindications. Only if you have a serious cardiovascular disorder should you not take Ayahuasca, as it slightly increases blood pressure. No alterations of liver function and other biochemical parameters have been observed after the administration of Ayahuasca in the laboratory. Only a modulation of the immune system has been detected, but this is temporary and does not seem to have clear effects on health.

It is very important to consult with a physician if you are taking any medication chronically, or if you have to take medication during the days of the Ayahuasca session. The use of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs may be contraindicated for the use of Ayahuasca, as well as the use of drugs metabolized by certain cytochromes. Not only psychotropic drugs may be contraindicated; so might any drug capable of interacting with MAO (as MAOIs: Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors). The combined use of Ayahuasca with drugs that use the same metabolic pathways can be dangerous. It is very important to consult a specialist.

If you have a chronic illness, it can be dangerous to stop taking the medication for some time with the intent to take Ayahuasca. It is very important to consult a specialist. In any case, always carry the medication with you, even if you will only be away from home for a few hours. Ayamorphosis retreats may be held in places not that close to towns. If for any reason you cannot return home on time, not having your medication with you can become a problem.

Tyramine is a monoamine that is naturally present in some foods. Above all fermented products such as aged cheeses, soy sauce, wine or beer, and certain meats, nuts, etc., are rich in tyramine. On the Internet you can find lists of products that are rich in tyramine. We also provide a list of foods to avoid after we have received your deposit. Avoid combining foods with high concentrations of tyramine with Ayahuasca, because it can cause hypertensive crisis with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, increased heart rate, dilated pupils and, very infrequently, brain hemorrhage and death. In any case, the Ayahuasca MAOIs disappear from the body very quickly, so it is unlikely that you will have poisoning if you take foods rich in tyramine before or after the session. You should not ingest such foods while under the influence of Ayahuasca.

Although not very common, there are cases of people who faint during the experience. It is important to lie down during the session and ask for assistance to walk to the toilet/bathroom if you do not feel steady on your feet. Be aware that if you get up on a hard floor or with hard objects around you may injure yourself should you fall.

Psychological Safety

Next to physical safety, it is important to take psychological safety into consideration. While there are not many reported cases of adverse events, some cases have been documented of episodes of panic or psychosis following the use of Ayahuasca. Therefore, people with personality disorders or a history of mental disorders (such as borderline, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc.) are at risk if they use Ayahuasca. At the application stage we ask you to inform us of any mental illness you may have. A psychological preparation of the individual and a controlled context in which the Ayahuasca is taken, as well as an adequate integration of the experience, are keys to reduce Ayahuasca-related risks.

Psychological risks

If you have a history of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, personality disorders, or bipolar disorder, among others, taking Ayahuasca involves a high risk, especially if your disorder is active. It is true that the use of medications for such conditions is not always satisfactory, but that does not mean that ‘alternative’ treatments are. If you are still convinced that you want to have an Ayahuasca experience, it is very important that you openly and honestly discuss this with us at the time of your application. You may not be able to join an Ayamorphosis retreat. We will need to have an honest discussion with you about the severity of your illness, and we will suggest that you discuss it with your doctor too, prior to offering you a place on the retreat.  The important thing is that you get the best of care if we do allow you to participate.

The worst that can happen after taking Ayahuasca is that the effects may be prolonged after they should have begun to disappear. It may happen that the effects increase at the end of the session because you relax yourself, or after vomiting, but if they persist long after the session ends you should notify us. There are techniques to help you get back to normal, but there are some cases where this does not work and medication or even continued treatment is required.  These cases are very rare and symptoms may include paranoia, ideas of self-reference (“everyone talks about me”), delusions (ideas that are incoherent and absurd, even in that particular state of consciousness) or severe confusion. These symptoms are very different from episodes of fear or confusion that can occur under the effects of Ayahuasca, which are transient, and often part of the experience.

Preparations

Yogic Vomiting

An optional Supervised Yogic Vomiting session will be held prior to drinking Ayahuasca. We will explain and assist you with this if you so wish. Or, you can do it alone. Yogic Vomiting helps prepare you for the ceremony by cleaning out the stomach and intestines. The more food you have in your stomach at the time of the ceremony the more difficult it is for Ayahuasca to take its full effect. Yogic Vomiting also helps reduce or prevent purging during the Ayahuasca Ceremony.

You might even want to try Yogic Vomiting for yourself before you come for your retreat. It’s much easier than you think, but do remember this practice is optional both before the retreat and while your with us.

Why Clean the Stomach?

How long it takes us to digest food depends on a number of factors, but largely on the types of food we eat. Fruit and vegetables digest much quicker than meat. It is suggested that you eat lightly on the days of the ceremonies and completely stop eating after midday.

If we eat a heavy meal it will take 3-5 hours for the food to leave the stomach and enter the the small intestine. In the stomach the food is mixed with gastric juices to prepare it for absorption in the intestines. But even though food has been pushed into the intestines, small particles of food remain on the lining of the stomach. Of course, later on these particles may be flushed out when we drink fluids, or when we take our next meal, but during the time the particles are just sitting in our stomachs they can cause irritation, as well as produce gas and acidity.

In Ayurvedic Medicine, it is said that these food particles can get stuck in the stomach as a yellowish-white substance and as it moves through the body it is absorbed and causes disease.

Yogic Vomiting helps to clean the stomach of unwanted food particles. In India, it is usually done in the morning on an empty stomach. The later you do it in the day, the more food you may have in your stomach, so it is likely you will vomit out more particles.

You need to prepare warm saline water for the practice. One to one-and-a-half litres of warm water is required. Add two teaspoons (about 10 ml) of salt to the warm water and mix it. Then drink all of this solution very quickly while crouched down or sitting on a chair.

By vomiting out all the water, you flush your stomach clean. Vomiting is started by bending over a basin or toilet and then tickling the back of the throat with your fingers. This will cause a vomiting reflex and the vomiting will happen in spurts. Continue the process until all the water is vomited out.

This Hatha Yoga practice of vomiting is known as Vaman Dhauti or Kunjal Kriya. Yogic Vomiting is believed to have numerous health benefits, including relieving asthma and respiratory problems, sore throats and coughs, gas, acidity and indigestion.

Physical preparation

When you contact Ayamorphosis about doing a retreat with us we will ask you to send us an email telling us more about you. We may ask you questions too, regarding your mental and physical health, whether you take any medications or drugs, what your intentions are and whether you have experienced Ayahuasca or any other entheogen before and, if so, how it was for you. It is important for us to know if you have any particular fears, neurosis, phobias or habits that you wish to break. If you have schizophrenia or psychotic episodes we need to know. Not everyone can join our retreats. Sometimes we ask for a Skype interview too.

We hope that you will be able to place your trust in us and follow our suggestions by cutting out restricted foods and medications in enough time for your body to be ready for Ayahuasca. We hope that you can find the discipline to follow our recommendations even if you do not entirely agree with them or find them useful. Ultimately, we want the safest and most beneficial experience for you.

In traditional cultures, especially in Peru where Mary has worked numerous times with Ayahuasca, the shamanic practice can involve some very complex diets and preparation. For days, weeks or even months the shaman eats unripe baked banana with white rice, no salt, no sugar, and no oil. For each day on the diet, a specific plant decoction is taken. There is sexual abstinence and one lives in complete isolation in a cabin in the forest. The diet often starts with the ingestion of an emetic plant such as Tobacco or Yawarpanga (Aristolochia Didyma), among others. The intention is to cleanse and sensitize the body and psyche to the effects of the plants taken so that they can produce more benefit.

Originally these diets are a way of healing and are part of the training of the healers. How far you want to go with diets, fasting, isolation from everyday stimulus, Yoga, Tai Chi or meditation before taking Ayahuasca depends entirely on you. There are people who maintain their normal diet, others ingest less salt and sugar for a few days or weeks, others fast 3-4 days before, etc.

In general, one can say that healthy and light meals and maintaining a good physical condition can facilitate the Ayahuasca experience and perhaps make it safer. Such diets can also be a way to connect with the body and blockages you feel, help you gain self-awareness and prepare you for the session. It is often advised to take plenty of vegetables and fruit the days before the session, have a light breakfast and carbohydrate-rich lunch, and make sure that the last meal is at least six hours before the session.

If you take medications that are contraindicated with Ayahuasca, such as antidepressants, it is advisable to stop using them at least two weeks before the session. This is a very delicate process that has to be done under the strict supervision of your doctor or another specialist, as interrupting the use of a psychiatric medication can cause serious problems. Keep in mind that there will always be time to take Ayahuasca once you’re free of your medication. Herbal preparations containing St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo Biloba are contraindicated with Ayahuasca. Avoid alcohol, stimulants, opiates and other drugs during the days or weeks before the session. We encourage you to keep your body hydrated and well rested before the ceremony.

Simple Do’s & Don’ts of the Retreats

The following are suggested to ensure your safety and the safety of others, so that you all experience the best possible ceremony

* Do not use any SSRIs, antidepressants. You are asked not to bring or use any drugs, medications, vitamins or alcohol while on the retreat. (You must tell Mary if you have used any of the above on the day of the retreat or a week prior to the ceremony)

* No smoking cigarettes in the house (use ashtrays outside/please smoke cleanly)

* Do not touch others during the ceremony unless they ask you to

* Do make sure you have read and understood the restricted foods/medications etc  (If you have not followed the suggested Diet and medical restrictions please let Mary know. Do not bring or eat these foods while on retreat.

* Do not leave the premises, drive, ride a motorbike/bicycle or handle machinery while under the effects of the sacrament (Or even directly after the ceremony as you may still be in an altered state)

* Do not take photographs, make video/audio recordings, or use mobile phones during ceremonies

* Do not bring mobile phones, computers, tablets or cameras into the ceremonial space

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* Please feel free to make a personal offering to the shrine (You can take it home afterwards if you wish)

* Please feel free to bring your own Yoga mat to lie on, cushions, blankets, sleeping bags, prayer beads, charms and crystals

* Please don’t feel shy to ask for assistance or signal that you need help during the ceremony (We are happy to help you to the bathroom, or whatever)

* Please relax, breathe deeply if you reach a difficult phase, and know that whatever is difficult you can work through and come out the other side an absolute star.

greenleavesperuAyamorphosis Diet

The diet is optional. Some people say that La Dieta is nothing more than a myth but others insist it prepares the body and the nervous system for the ceremony and use of the Ayahuasca and/or other entheogen. The diet for many is not just an act of discipline. It shows Mother Ayahuasca your commitment to your intention, the ceremony and healing.

In the case of the food restrictions, there is definitive scientific evidence that they are essential for safety reasons.

* Amazonian shaman recommend that alcohol drinkers do not drink for as long as two weeks prior to the retreats, as well as two weeks afterwards to get the most out of the healing integration. You may want to try this. But Ayamorphosis suggests abstaining from alcohol one week prior to the retreat and one week afterwards. If you have a serious addiction to alcohol you should consult with a doctor about withdrawing from alcohol as you may suffer a seizure if you stop abruptly.

* Reduce salt by taking a small amount every five days prior to the retreat for no more than two weeks before the retreat (do not completely cut out as you can suffer reduced energy levels as well as other medical problems).

There are potential health risks associated with eating certain foods that contain tyramine and tryptophan, monoamine compounds found naturally in nature. Tyramine is an amino acid which is found in various foods, and is an indirect sympathomimetic that can cause a hypertensive reaction if monoamine oxidase (MAO) levels are lowered Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (and very similar in structure, like serotonin, to DMT). Excessive amounts of tryptophan combine with MAO inhibitors (such as the B. Caapi vine or Syrian Rue) can cause so-called serotonin syndrome, which is rarely fatal but very unpleasant.

None of the foods listed below are likely to cause hypertensive crisis, serotonin syndrome, or other serious medical complications if eaten outside a 24-hour period immediately prior to (or following) consuming Ayahuasca. This information is taken from medical information about pharmaceutical MAOIs. There have been fatal food interactions with pharmaceutical MAOIs, so to avoid lawsuits doctors and pharmaceutical companies issue strongly-worded warnings. With Ayahuasca, MAOI interactions with foods are generally not life-threatening. However, we advise that you err on the side of caution as much as possible.

* It is considered essential to avoid pork for two weeks prior to the ceremony and two weeks afterwards.

Beyond the safety aspect of the diet, there are other reasons for following this preparation. From a shamanic point of view the diet is considered crucial to your psychological and spiritual preparation for the experience. Those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine or the Ayurvedic schools will know that the consumption of excessively spicy foods, for example, is believed to be unhealthy to a body that is working with its natural energy.

Cut out caffeine (progressively if necessary) until you are taking none for at least one week prior to ceremony. Cut out sodas and fizzy drinks for one week prior to ceremony. It is not essential to quit smoking cigarettes (tobacco) prior or after the ceremony, but we do ask you to refrain from smoking inside the house.

* It is essential that all use of antidepressants (SSRIs) have been stopped for at least six weeks prior to ceremony.

* For safety reasons all stimulant drugs (Cocaine, (Meth)Amphetamines) and other synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs, psychedelic or otherwise (LSD, MDMA, Cannabis in all its forms, Psilocybin, Ketamine, Iboga, tranquillisers, the Shulgin molecules etc) must be avoided for at least a week before your first ceremony.

Other ways to prepare for the ceremony can be a diet of restraint and renunciation, so cutting or reducing your exposure to television, the Internet, movies, radio, mass media, advertising, parties and idle talk. Solitude, meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Qi Gong are all considered conducive to preparation for the retreat.

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