Ayahuasca alternative? Various methods discussed

Alternatives to Ayahuasca
Alternatives to Ayahuasca

Psychedelics aren’t for everyone. What can you do to achieve similar effects like ego dissolution, connection to something higher and overcoming ‘bad narratives’ or problems associated with your mind? I would also add that the methods described in this blog could also be used by Ayahuasca users in between or in combination with a ceremony.

** Updated March 2023 **

Alternatives to achieving ego dissolution from Ayahuasca:

Ego dissolution has levels to it. At the extreme, temporarily, one doesn’t feel like one has a body and there is no ‘you’. ‘You’ are just a consciousness floating around in space. Which, for most people, psychedelics are required to be able to achieve.

At the less intense end of the spectrum, is simply taking note of the things your ego, aka mind, is thinking about and understanding that these things aren’t all of ‘you’ or something that singularly defines you. There is another part(s) of ‘you’ which is not those thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts on some level. They don’t necessarily represent who you are now or in the future.

That being said here are some ways I think you can do to achieve ego dissolution. Depending on how much you practice all levels of ego dissolution are possible, I believe. I also think mixing a few of them will be beneficial as well.


Meditation is possibly your best option in my opinion. Our friend Michael Pollan has some quick words on the topic in the below video. Basically, he is saying comparisons of FMRI’s (ways for doctors to see brain activity) between human brains on psychedelic mushrooms and the brains of very experienced meditators are astoundingly similar.

I found one study which looks at the similarities between meditation and psychedelics. It’s only one study but it’s a start. It says that,

many contemplative traditions explicitly aim at dissolving the sense of self by eliciting altered states of consciousness through meditation



classical psychedelics are known to produce significant disruptions of self-consciousness, a phenomenon known as drug-induced ego dissolution“.


It’s important to realize also that while I may be talking about ego dissolution in a fairly simple manner it is probably not a linear progression. For example, the authors of this study say,

it is important to emphasize right away that neither meditation nor psychedelic states can be conceived as simple, uniform categories. Many variables modulate the subjective effects of contemplative practice and psychedelics, including the style of meditation or the drug and dosage used, as well as personal factors such as level of experience and personality traits“.


I haven’t had a lot of time to get into the nitty-gritty of this article but I think there are some gems in there that I need to get into soon. For the purposes of this article, it’s enough to point you in the direction of meditation as a way to dissolve your ego and this article bolsters my claim. I suggest reading it yourself to get to the bottom of some of these gems. For example, it says,

we suggest that both meditation and psychedelics can induce a wide variety of global states of consciousness, but these states are sensitive to a multitude of factors in addition to the specific inducers we are highlighting here“.


You can read the full research paper here.

In one Ayahuasca ceremony, I was actually told to start meditating by Mother Ayahuasca. Many psychedelic users incorporate it into their lives post psychedelics but, also people who meditate only have reported very similar ego dissolution symptoms in my research around the net. For example, Mike from Future Thinkers in this blog post.

Challenging activities:

In my experience, doing anything that requires you to be challenged in a consistent manner will help you to be aware of your thought patterns and eventually overcome them in order to push past them.

For example, surfing, ju-jitsu, doing rehab and web development are like this for me but, there are lots of other things you could try. Anything that you enjoy but, find challenging to maintain consistently. It could be a diet, an exercise regime, reading for 2 hours everyday for self improvement, the list goes on.

In these activities and others, you will encounter resistance from your ego whether you recognize it as coming from there or not. Some examples of resistance are,

  • procrastinating or
  • making excuses as to why you shouldn’t do something.

That’s your ego attempting to avoid the hardships it knows it will encounter. Your ego in many ways wants the path or least resistance.

You might not recognize it as your ego. You might just say. ‘Ah shit I just couldn’t be bothered’ or ‘I’m tired’, or you’ll make up some other excuse. Usually these excuses are your ego attempting to get out out of doing something it isn’t used to doing.


  • When I say ‘usually’ I mean that it’s possible that we are actually too tired and doing the extra thing consistently when we are run down could lead to sickness or some other negative state. I’m not trying to say you should never take a break. I’m trying to say our ego can be both looking out for us and trying to do less because it’s lazy.
  • Activities like meditation allow us to have some separation from the ego and look at these things objectively. As if we asked for a second opinion from someone. So, in my example of sports if you have worked out in some form or another 10 days in a row and the 11th you have a thought that perhaps you should take a break and you’re tired then that is possibly good advice. Take a day or two to rest and come back feeling renewed.
  • I think a good rule of think is to ignore the first thought of not working out and then if you still feel the same way tomorrow then consider that perhaps you should take a day off.

If you can see this resistance which pops up in your head as being ‘not you’ or separate from you then you are effectively creating a separation between your ego and the rest of you.

I’m reminded of a book I read before psychedelics and re-read afterward called The War on Art by Steven Pressfield in which he describes how to overcome all kinds of resistance in order to achieve productivity.

In my opinion, the author, while he doesn’t talk about the topic from a point of view of ego, is talking about overcoming exactly that. He cataloges all the different ways the ego can cause resistance and tells you how to get over it.

I put it to you that this is a lot easier when you recognize the thing causing the resistance as the ego AND you have some awareness that ‘you’ are not only this.

Sensory deprivation or float tanks:

I haven’t done a float tank but, it makes sense to try it out if you are interested in ego dissolution. Why? Because your ego or mind, in my experience, gets enticed and caught up when it is engaged with data whether that is visual, auditory, touch or otherwise. Anything from our 5 main senses.

In a sensory deprivation tank you are deprived of much of this sensory data with which your ego can be distracted by. You are also supposed to not feel your body so much either because the water is heated to body temperature. As such it is easier to be just with your thoughts and thus easier to meditate on them. In this way, it can perhaps be considered an extension of meditation or a ‘helper’.

Being by yourself:

The idea of ego dissolution is in order to, as I’ve said, get an arm’s length from your ego and become the observer. Meditation, challenging things and float tanks have in common that they allow you time to be with and become aware of your thoughts.

With that said there is no reason why many mundane things can’t be turned into an ego dissolution opportunity. For example, go for a hike in nature by yourself. Drive long distances by yourself. Travel by yourself.

As I’m writing this I’m realizing I do this quite a lot anyhow but, if I was going to plan a specific trip I would probably go hiking for several days (maybe as much as 14 if I could manage it). I would choose a location that suits me and go. I’d turn my phone off, tell a friend what I was up to and that I wouldn’t be in contact for the duration of the trip, and just let my thoughts come and go while on the trip.

I’m sure I would have many thoughts. I’d get frustrated. Feel helpless. Annoyed. Want for things. Miss people. Tell myself jokes. Practice making funny accents. Then get frustrated again. Remember old arguments I had. I’d probably think about sex (who doesn’t). Think about people I used to have in my life that aren’t anymore. Think about helping people I love. Think about how I’m gonna make my next paycheck? What I’m gonna write the next blog on. Think about my friends and family. Why? Because that is the kind of stuff my mind thinks about when it is left to its own devices.

Those are all things and states of mind which I would have the opportunity to become aware of and try to distance myself from. Look at them as the observer and see if they stick around or I can make sense of them or simply just let them pass knowing that my mind with its particular set of experiences likes to think these things. Let it think it. It doesn’t necessarily makeup who I am now or in the future.

If you can do that or at least continue to fail at it like I do until you get a few slivers of understanding then you have achieved some level of ego dissolution.

Aubrey Marcus, another psychonaut, says something similar in his podcast with Joe Rogan which you can view below.

Connecting with something higher:

Psychedelics not only can lead to ego dissolution but, can also lead to spiritual moments. Many a person on psychedelics has felt in the presence of something or someone higher than themselves while being in the correct set and setting. But, what if you can’t or won’t take psychedelics? Well, luckily there are many religious and philosophical groups with which you could align yourself which offer spiritual guidance.

My pick of the bunch is Buddhism and I would recommend this to you as well. Why?

I’m not that experienced as a Buddhist but I have begun to practice Buddhist meditation with a Buddhist Meditation Group. I’m not trying to preach to you but in my humble opinion I think it’s a great philosophy to take up because,

  • it does a very good job of connecting you to a higher power, who hasn’t been personified or deified as in some religious groups,
  • while also having a very strong meditative practice whose goal, or at least in part, is ego dissolution. They would probably say ‘one-ness’ but, these things have a lot of overlap in my opinion.
  • Also, it promotes other themes which, in my experience, run parallel to psychedelics. For example, ‘one-ness’, ‘love’, ‘compassion’, the concept of the ‘self’, becoming less fearful of death etc.

Overcoming bad narratives – depression for example:

Psychedelics have been praised for their ability to be able to re-write negative narratives which play out (perhaps on repeat) in a persons mind. As such, psychedelics can be useful for helping people to overcome depression, anxiety, eating disorders, problems with addiction, negative thought patterns and more.

But, if you can’t take psychedelics then how can you do these things? Well, that is probably a case by case question but, there are alternatives in western medicine and psychology that could be attempted. For example, in my past, when I was depressed, I went through a Cognitive Therapy Course.

In hindsight, it was doing a similar thing as in my psychedelic experiences but to a lesser degree, in that it was allowing me to see myself in a different light.

If you are deciding not to take psychedelics because you are at risk of triggering psychosis then I can understand why you might take the less effective Cognitive Therapy route but, if it’s for a lesser reason then I’d say you might be doing yourself a disservice by avoiding psychedelics. Done in the correct set and setting they are quite simply a better solution, in my opinion.

I realize I’ve only mentioned one alternative scenario to not use psychedelics and I’m sure there are more it’s just that this is really my only relevant personal experience.

Silent retreat:

I haven’t done one of these but, if you aren’t familiar then it is a, usually, 10-14 days retreat whereby you don’t speak to anyone. As far as I understand you are in your own head for 14 days not doing anything but eating, sleeping and maybe sitting in the garden or meditating during the day.

I imagine that this is doing something similar to what other methods above. First, it allows you to reduce external data input so you can focus internally. Second, you are forced to be with your own thoughts and in this way can become aware of them and perhaps make the next step to considering yourself ‘separate’ from them.

I know people who have made nice psychological breakthroughs in silent retreats.


Yoga could be included under the Challenging Activities section I suppose but, I thought I would mention it separately because some forms of yoga do claim to reach psychedelic states solely from yogic breathing – famously that being Kundalini Yoga but there are others like Kriya which can achieve the same state in my understanding. As such these could be an option for those looking to replace psychedelics.

In my understanding and experience of yoga the asanas (physical positions) remove pain and discomfort over time and slowly allow us to release pent up stress and energy that often blocks our higher spiritual aspects from being ‘on the surface’ or readily accessible to us. Over time practicing our bodies become more and more healthy and we remove a barrier we once had to spiritual insights.

Slowly as our body is less of an issue we start to move our focus to the more meditative and subtle aspects of our bodies being the consciousness and develop a yogic meditative practice.

The asanas at this point serve to stimulate various parts of our bodies which have spiritual significant like the chakras and we develop a more spiritual yogic practice. This naturally leads to meditation and mindfulness practices that we spoke about earlier in this article.

Wrapping up:

After writing this I have two main things to say,

  • I think psychedelic offer a ‘fast forward’ button for ego dissolution and spiritual development but not a permanent replacement. Psychedelics can help us to break through to achieve the initial stages of ego dissolution but I don’t think can take you all the way to spiritual enlightenment.
  • For these things finer more subtle tools are required such as meditation.
  • I would say that ego dissolution leads to spiritual progression as we start to understand what is ‘left over’ once we remove or reduce the activity of the ego. Turns out there is a whole lot of spiritual connection and concepts once you can successfully reduce its influence or even comprehend and experience the concept.
  • I would also say that if I could (somewhat randomly) liken the process of ego dissolution and spiritual progression to the creation of chop sticks like seen in this video.
  • I would say psychedelics might be the equivalent of an axe (one tool in the tool belt) used to cut down the bamboo tree. A necessary tool for the job but not one which you use throughout the entire process.
  • As the bamboo tree is whittled down to smaller and smaller pieces of wood the tools required become more subtle and fine tuned. We need to to stop using the axe (psychedelics) and start using the sand paper or the fire or the small blade.
  • In my analogy comparing the creation of chop sticks to spiritual progression these more fine tuned tools could be those with which I have discussed above like meditation or exercise or yoga or anything else.
  • So what if you can’t or don’t want to use psychedelics? You can still cut down a tree with a small blade. It just takes longer. In the same way you can still achieve spiritual progression with meditation it just takes longer. Additionally it also allows greater control.
  • For example, when you swing an axe you use the weight of it and the sharpness of it to partly smash and partly cunt into the tree. But swinging an axe is also less accurate. What if the part of the trunk you want to strike is close to your foot? You would not be confident you could be accurate enough to both cut down the tree and avoid missing your foot.
  • In this case you would have to use something more accurate and slower like a hand saw. I use this part of the analogy to compare psychedelic use for those who have psychosis or some other very good reason to avoid them. If these people use psychedelics they might just ‘chop their own foot off’ or worsen their psychosis.
  • Instead these people should consider the more subtle tools mentioned in this article as ways to gain the benefits of psychedelics without having to worsen your psychological situation. More time but more accurate.
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1 year ago

What an awesome blog.
I’m currently prepping to go on my first ceremony after having tried other psychedelics multiple times in the past for healing purposes and am I super glad to have come across something so helpful.
I managed to find a good retreat, set intentions, and have a profound level of respect for the ceremony and this blog that helped me along the way.
Thank you