The interwebs is teeming with miracle stories about how the psychotropic plant brew called ayahuasca can heal and cure just about any ailment. I’ve been drinking this medicine and leading ceremonies for 12 years, and can attest to the validity of these dramatic and beautiful relays. But anything that has the power to cure PTSD and cancer can also create unfathomable trauma and sickness in the wrong hands too. Everything is always in balance.
I’m a massive advocate for being ridiculously picky about who you join in ceremony. There’s an influx of folks who drank the medicine a handful of times and deem themselves capable of guiding others through the process. I’ll be straight with you: They’re not capable. No amount of good intentions can make up for a lack of experience and training. ayahuasca can help participants move through addiction, suicidal thoughts, mental illness, and all manner of diseases, but she can only do so with a purified vessel that knows how to guide someone through hell.
Sometimes we have to visit the darkest corners of our consciousness to let go of what ails us; if that’s the case, you really want to be with someone who has done the same work on themselves.
I work both inside and outside of ceremonial circles, and recently I’ve heard a shockingly large number of tales from folks who feel more traumatized since drinking ayahuasca. This is not the fault of the medicine. The accountability lies in the humans who created the brew and led the ceremonies. The level of responsibility it takes to organize, host, and facilitate ayahuasca ceremonies is mind-blowingly deep. Many aren’t up for the challenge and therefore dismiss the necessity to hold this liability. This will inevitably result in some awful ramifications, often shouldered by the unsuspecting souls who sit with novice practitioners.
So You Drank Ayahuasca & You Feel Messed Up. Now What?
If you’ve drank Mama Aya looking for healing and clarity, and instead you feel more traumatized and lost, here’s some advice on how to move through that space and get the light and expansion you deserve.
Step One: Take Back Your Power
Maybe you sat with a hack who misrepresented their skills. Maybe you didn’t do your homework on the brew and drank something other than pure ayahuasca. Maybe you joined a circle with irresponsible organizers and did the work in an unsafe setting. Or maybe you went all renegade and decided to drink solo.
Regardless, the first step to recovering from the experience is to take back responsibility. We aren’t victims unless we allow ourselves to be held in that energy. Victimhood is never healing nor honest. You may feel angry or betrayed, but it’s far more empowering to have gratitude for the information and experience; you can then learn your lessons and get to the feeling stage.
Many of us are too trusting and too unaware that doing substantial research on a medicine circle is essential. It’s so critical I wrote a whole boatload of questions I recommend asking any group doing this work, far before you choose to sit with them. If they aren’t transparent and willing to answer all your inquiries, I wouldn’t trust them with your spiritual vulnerability. This is intensely serious work. Sitting with a shaman you don’t know much about is like choosing a surgeon via a random dice roll. We own the responsibility of making sure we are choosing wisely.
Step Two: Make Sense of What Happened
Once you take back your power, it’s very beneficial to get to the bottom of what you’re reacting to. When you cease to blame external circumstances, the clarity of why your soul manifested a traumatic experience can begin to materialize.
Even in a safe and loving environment, ayahuasca can be a hellish experience. That’s by design. Do this medicine long enough, and she will find your edges and push you into everything you fear. She does this out of love. She knows that once we face our most horrifying demons, we are more empowered, confident, and ready to do good in the world.
If you’re trying to integrate a hardcore experience, gratitude can be your best friend. Holding sincere thankfulness for the entire experience (including shamans who abuse their power and organizers who don’t take their roles seriously) can help you move through that energy at light speed. Keep resisting and judging what occurred, and you could suffer for a long, long time.
Our souls hold the heart of our genius; they don’t care if situations are easy or horrendously difficult. They care about growth and expansion. This is the part of us ayahuasca partners with. She aims to evolve consciousness through expansion, and we never just expand in one direction. If we want more bliss and enlightenment, we are signing up for more darkness and intensity, whether we know it or not.
When you know and accept that this is simply the process of expansion and contraction, and that everything in the entire multiverse follows this trajectory, you can resolve that this happened for you, not against you. And then the individual reasons your soul created that drama can begin to clearly manifest. Gratitude is a very powerful force.
Step Three: Be Obsessive About Self-Care
We don’t think our way to good health, groundedness, and joy. We get to the places we desire through small but impactful steps. The level to which you make self-care your priority can literally make or break your recovery from any traumatic event. A wild ride on ayahuasca is no different.
This is always my number one focus when Aya throws me curveballs. As I’m integrating, I put my full focus on taking care of my body, mind, emotional self, inner child, ego – you name it, she gets pampered. Time in nature, lots of fluids, one on ones with trusted souls, clean food, bubble baths – these are all magical healing potions. Placing your attention on self-care instead of obsessing over the trauma is the most effective means of integrating and healing available. And it helps bring clarity too.
The goal here is not to overwhelm yourself with even more things to do and focus on; it’s about alleviating stress and creating balance. So it’s not a matter of doing more if time is not plentiful for you, it’s a matter of giving more intention to the things you already do.
I’ll use an example: Let’s say you’re aces at staying hydrated. If you do this mindlessly all day long, that’s beneficial, but holding a deeper intention when you drink water can actually amplify the positive effects. My mantra is whenever I do something out of self-care, I try to take a quick second to solidify the intention that this is, “to me, from me, with love.” That small extra step makes each self-care action volumes more effective and powerful.
Love on yourself, and do it as consciously as you can. When you make yourself the priority, you will not only heal and integrate intense experiences more efficiently, you will also have nothing but love for the people in your life. Self-care is the answer to just about everything that ails us.
MUST READ: Beginner’s Guide to Ayahuasca Healing
Step Four: Seek Outside Assistance
Trying to decipher your ayahuasca visions, your dream world, or any level of your subconscious on your own can feel like a Chinese finger trap. It’s like trying to be subjective about your artistic creations – it’s damn difficult to edit your own work. And it’s damn difficult for your mind to understand it’s most mysterious corners.
Some people seek the assistance of another shaman to put them back together after a botched ayahuasca ceremony. In some cases, where the original shaman may have been a brujo at worst, or a ceremonial facilitator who has serious integrity issues or character flaws, a more experienced and spiritually impeccable curandero can bring the individual back to wholeness.
MUST READ: Should You Drink Ayahuasca Alone?
For others, seeking the counsel of a therapist or coach that specializes in the language of the subconscious can be priceless in taking a traumatic experience and flipping it into a blessing. They can often see what you are unable to alone, and give the experience context and language that connects the dots.
I have been working in this capacity for 5 years now, helping people integrate these peak experiences, and it’s so gratifying to watch clients come through the maze of their mind with connectedness and joy. Since I’ve drank in over 1,000 ayahuasca ceremonies, I have a strong connection to how she operates, and over the years many more folks like me have stepped up to help participants outside of ceremony. Many of us argue integration is the most important part of the process, and until recently, it’s been the most ignored element.
If you’re lost or feeling stuck, find an ayahuasca coach or psychedelics expert and let them guide you through it. I also work with a Jungian therapist myself to help me make sense of my subconscious reveals; he has never drank the medicine but he has been vital in helping me understand what my mind and soul are trying to communicate.
Don’t have an ounce of shame around requesting help in this process. Becoming more conscious is a bloody intense journey. We all need and deserve help from time to time, and humanity thrives more in tribal communion than it does in stubborn solitude.
Whatever you are going through, you are not alone. If you’re in an ayahuasca aftermath feeling worse off than you were originally, get help pronto. This medicine wants to heal and expand you, not harm you. Speed bumps are normal, as Aya is one of the most powerful substances on the planet, but you don’t have to suffer alone. In fact, you don’t have to suffer at all. You will come through this stronger and wiser than ever before; all you need is the motivation and assistance to move the energy and get to the other side.
Art by Salvia Droid