Why does it really matter that your ayahuasca facilitator understands indigenous shamanic techniques? Carlos Tanner explains the depth of traditional knowledge, and what it takes to become a good ayahuasca facilitator.
Carlos Tanner has lived in the Amazon rain forest of Peru for over fourteen years. He currently works as the program director for the Ayahuasca Foundation, a non-profit organization he helped found in 2009. In this interview (available below) we talk about Carlos’ experiences with the Shipibo, and the most important shamanic techniques for the ayahuasca enthusiast to be aware of.
In 2002, Carlos was a production manager for a newspaper in the US. He had all the indicators of capitalist success, but was still unhappy and unsatisfied. This led to a cycle of addiction to alcohol and opiates, eventually ending with him having a serious near-fatal car accident.
This was a wake-up call. He decided to leave his career, and travelled to Peru with a friend, seeking healing from ayahuasca. After his first ceremony, he never did heroin again.
The curandero from his first ceremony took Carlos on as a student, which led to him moving to Peru permanently in 2004 to learn everything he could about the Shipibo traditions.
The desire to share what he learned was what encouraged Carlos to start the Ayahuasca Foundation. He wanted to educate more people about the various techniques of ayahuasca shamanism, hoping to improve the standards of facilitation around the world.
While some people may argue that the best way of learning from shamans it to just watch them, Carlos suggests that it’s important to also teach the basic concepts of shamanism. That way, students have a foundation of principles on which they can build practical knowledge and understanding.
Carlos also cautions against the idea that the plants are the ‘real teachers.’ While that is true to an extent, we must also develop the skills to relate to them, hear them, communicate better with them… and these are things the plants themselves cannot teach. We have to learn these things from wisdom that has been passed down through generations.
An important consideration when it comes to plant medicines is just how many other plants are involved in indigenous shamanism! Ayahuasca ceremonies are so often about much more than just ayahuasca – many other plants are involved, and shamans will undergo dietas with many different species. Our focus in the West is so often on the psychedelic plants, rather than the whole plethora of natural medicines.
There are risks to sitting in ayahuasca ceremonies with facilitators who haven’t been trained by a traditional curandero! The biggest risk is the facilitator not knowing how to help people through difficult experiences – sometimes traditional methods are the most effective at reducing suffering.
Additionally, while inexperienced facilitators may be less likely to take you to deep places, if you do end up having a challenging experience, they will be less well equipped to help you through them. Experienced curanderos are both more likely to take you to challenging places, but also more likely to take care of you and make sure you leave without feeling traumatized.
Carlos speaks about the most important skills that his educational courses teach. One is how to engage in a plant diet – to develop a relationship with a specific plant, and be guided through the process. Another is learning icaros – understanding where they come from, what the lyrics mean, and what each one is used for.
When it comes to the future of ayahuasca, Carlos predicts it may evolve in way similar to yoga; where as it spreads across the world, it starts to lose some of its depth. Carlos suggests that for ayahuasca, it may always be that to experience its true depth, you may have to travel to its place of origin and learn from the original masters.
In this interview, you will discover:
- The differences between attending ceremonies in the Amazon to anywhere else in the world
- What it truly takes to be healer in the ayahuasca tradition
- What the future holds for the globalization of ayahuasca
About Carlos Tanner
An American living in Peru, Carlos Tanner has been studying the science of plant spirit healing in the Amazon Rainforest since 2003. He currently works as the program director for the Ayahuasca Foundation, a non-profit organization based out of Iquitos, Peru. He organizes healing retreats and educational courses led by authentic indigenous curanderos to help people in need of healing or interested in learning the Shipibo ayahuasca healing tradition.
Find Carlos Tanner at https://www.ayahuascafoundation.org/