Psychedelics, including ayahuasca, a potent sacred plant medicine that originated in the Amazon, and its many siblings such as psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine, bufo, yopo, rapee, peyote, and huachuca, seem to be en route to availability in mainstream commercial medical clinics due to their transformative promise and profit potential. The failure of traditional governmental and religious institutions to address basic human needs has led many desperate people in the West to seek emotional and physical relief, spiritual understanding, healing, and personal transformation through these ancient, shamanic visionary practices. The recent success of the Psychedelic Science conference in Colorado, with 12,000 participants, reflects this rapidly growing interest. We can also see a race to dominate the market by big money, the health care establishment, and governmental institutions.
Initially, many psychedelic users experience a honeymoon period. Typically it is filled with newfound love, awe, and a profound connection with themselves and the universe. Few successfully hold onto these insights. Then, as time passes, some folks fall out of love with ayahuasca. Facing everyday personal conflicts, depression and anxiety, they become disappointed in its curative powers and turned off by the unethical practices of some practitioners. Integrating the insights gained from a long line of ceremonies becomes difficult, leading to disillusionment. Sometimes people find the realization that even more deep inner work is required to be too daunting for them to continue.
Nevertheless, falling out of love with ayahuasca doesn’t negate its transformative potential. It can be a profound door opener, inspiring individuals to explore valuable spiritual practices for deeper and long-lasting growth, including shamanic ones. Letting go of the desire for a quick fix, people can embrace the wisdom of indigenous cultures and their holistic approaches to healing, fostering a more profound understanding of themselves and the interconnectedness of all things.
A Magical Discovery
The experience of an ayahuasca ceremony, while it can include the sometimes enormous physical challenges of purging and loss of bodily control, often begins with entering into a profound space of love and wonderment. Participants may feel a deep connection to themselves, to others, and to the entire natural universe. Indeed, it is a magical discovery—an awe-inspiring revelation of the secret of life, the workings of the mysterious universe. It invites opening of one’s heart, and surrendering to the matrix configuration and the entire cosmos. It can bring forth a profound feeling of oneness, true unconditional love, as experienced at your mother bosom, of truly belonging.
This initial encounter with ayahuasca is often described as a honeymoon period. The visionary experiences during the ceremony can be extraordinarily beautiful, insightful, and transformative. Many participants report encountering entities, receiving guidance, and receiving profound healing on multiple levels—mentally, physically, and spiritually. These experiences can leave individuals feeling deeply connected to the sacred, as if they have found a profound source of wisdom and healing. Like discovering a lost paradise.
Falling Out of Love
However it can happen that some individuals fall out of love with ayahuasca. They question the long-term effectiveness, and struggle with the challenges that arise after a ceremony. The honeymoon phase is often characterized by a sense of wonder, enthusiasm, and the belief that ayahuasca holds the answers to life’s deepest questions. Individuals can develop great enthusiasm, almost a religious missionary fervor. They feel the need to share their experiences and convert others, sometimes with a sense of superiority because they believe they have seen the “truth.” They often declare their dedication to Grandmother Ayahuasca by deciding to become a shaman or ayahuasquero. They may build or run retreat centers in South America or in their own Western cities, hoping to make a living by following their heart’s calling. Unfortunately, many become overly emotionally dependent on drinking the plant medicine, or to the community that comes together around it, to the point where it resembles an addiction. I know some people who have consumed ayahuasca 80, 120 or 400 times, or even more over many years.
I believe it is not the ayahuasca or other psychedelics these people fall out of love with. Rather, they are disheartened by the dire realization that no matter how many visions you collect in your ceremonial basket, at the end you still have to do the real inner work in the real world. That work will not be done for you!
The honeymoon phase fades over time, slowly. People find themselves confronting the challenges that arise in the aftermath of ceremonies. The integration process, which involves applying the insights gained during the ceremonies to everyday life, can be arduous and complex. The visions and revelations that seem crystal clear in the ceremonial space can become foggy or confusing when thrust into the real world.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience difficulties reconciling the insights gained from ayahuasca with their regular lives. They may find that their relationships, career choices, or belief systems no longer align with their newfound understandings. The deep personal work required to integrate the ayahuasca experience can be emotionally and mentally taxing, leading to a sense of disenchantment and disconnection.
Another factor that can contribute to falling out of love with ayahuasca is the emergence of challenging experiences during ceremonies. Ayahuasca is known for its potential to bring forth deep-seated traumas, fears, and unresolved emotions. While these experiences can be powerful catalysts for healing, they can also be overwhelming and emotionally exhausting. Participants may encounter intense purging, confront unsavory aspects of themselves, or face terrifying visions. Such experiences can leave individuals feeling vulnerable, shaken, and uncertain about continuing their ayahuasca practice. That’s why it’s important for a skilled, knowledgeable elder to be present at the ceremony, as well as the integration process afterwards, to navigate the group’s journey and to protect those who encounter difficulties.
At the same time, the commercialization and commodification of ayahuasca have raised concerns within the psychedelic community. The increasing popularity of retreat centers and the demand for ayahuasca ceremonies have led to a proliferation of inexperienced facilitators, both indigenous and Western, and questionable practices. Some individuals may become disillusioned when confronted with unethical behavior, unsafe environments, or a lack of genuine guidance and support.
Of course, it is a natural part of the journey to question, doubt, and reevaluate one’s relationship with any spiritual practice or tool for personal growth. Disillusionment may even serve as a catalyst for future self-discovery and healing.
For those who find themselves falling out of love with ayahuasca, it is crucial to seek support and guidance from experienced shamanic practitioners and trusted communities. Dedicated integration work is the key to assimilating ceremonial revelations into everyday life.
Deeper Spiritual Growth
One potential benefit that can arise when someone falls out of love with ayahuasca is that they begin to delve deeper into the roots of shamanism and spiritual practices. While ayahuasca ceremonies can provide powerful experiences, they are just one aspect of a rich and ancient tradition. Falling out of love with ayahuasca may prompt individuals to explore other modalities within the multifaceted world of global indigenous shamanism. In the middle of a crisis, one cannot simply stop and drink ayahuasca. However, individuals can simply close their eyes, breathe deeply, and connect with their celestial beings and the spirit of nature.
Connecting to the celestial beings—cosmic spirits—by entering into visionary trance, using rhythmic drumming, rattling, and sounds, or through twirling, dancing, shaking, or connecting with their own sixth sense and intuition are among the shamanic techniques used by traditional lineages . Calling in the sacred four cardinal elements of nature, the seven cosmic directions, and nature’s cycle of life can offer a deeper and more sustainable connection to spiritual growth and sustainable healing. As you are no longer alone. You are held, a part of the cosmos.
By moving away from the consumeristic allure of quick fixes and shortcuts, individuals may embark on a journey of self-discovery that goes beyond the fleeting effects of visionary plant medicine. They can explore the principles and teachings of shamanism, embracing the wisdom of indigenous cultures and their holistic approaches to healing. This shift in perspective can lead to a more profound understanding of oneself, the interconnectedness of all things, and the transformative power of inner work.
Not everyone falls out of love with ayahuasca and its siblings. Some maintain their connection to these ceremonies, and commit for a lifetime. But even if you do, it still can be rewarding to pursue a broader exploration of accessorial and spiritual practices and discover your own, deeper connection to the roots of indigenous traditions. Then you can live a true, undying honeymoon with Pachamama.