What I’ve learned about Ayahuasca Retreats in the last year

Maloca used for Ayahuasca Ceremonies - Santuario Huistin Retreat Pucallpa Peru
Maloca used for Ayahuasca Ceremonies - Santuario Huistin Retreat Pucallpa Peru

15 months ago I drank Ayahuasca in an Ayahuasca Retreat in Peru for the first time. 6 months later I drank again at the same retreat. Since then, my perspectives on life have altered dramatically and I am a better person for it. Here is what I’ve learned in the last 15 months since drinking Ayahuasca.


What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew from the Amazon jungle which allows you to experience ego dissolution and hallucinations with a view to heal mental and physical ailments.

It is drunk in a ceremonial setting with others and usually with a shaman(a) who leads the ceremony, protects and cares for the participants (energetically and physically) during the ceremony and sings Icaros in induce healing via the spirit of Ayahuasca.

In a more literal sense, Ayahuasca is both the name of a particular plant used to brew Ayahuasca but, also the name given to the psychedelic brew used to induce healing (for various mental and physical ailments), ego dissolution and hallucinations.

Where can you do Ayahuasca?

Drinking the psychedelic brew Ayahuasca (in a ceremonial setting or otherwise) is illegal in MOST of the United States of America which is where most of the interest for Ayahuasca comes from. However, Oakland, California has now legalized Ayahuasca as well as psychedelic mushrooms – so change is a-foot. Note the plant itself (without brewing it into a psychedelic brew) is not illegal. So, keep an eye on the news in the USA if this is where you want to do it. You would want to do your research and find a reputable retreat in the USA. Ask a friend or use Reddit to find one you like. There are also several Ayahuasca Churches who, because they are churches, can use Ayahuasca legally. I believe SoulQuest is one of them however, I have heard mixed reviews.

If you can’t or don’t want to do it in the US then you can also travel to Peru or other countries where it is perfectly legal. You would want to find a reputable retreat in order to drink Ayahuasca.

Alternatively, you could search out an illegal ceremony – not that I recommend that – but they are apparently out there.

Here are some retreats which I’ve researched (some more than others) in terms of costs which may be useful if you are looking for a retreat in Peru.

Note: Brewing Ayahuasca yourself: I don’t recommend this however, there seems to be a bunch of people on Reddit doing this. As you wish I suppose but just make sure to do it after you have researched it’s dangers. I’m torn on this topic as I want it to be more widely used however, it’s also a very powerful substance and could cause harm if done naively.

Who participates in Ayahuasca?

In a ceremony there is one or multiple shaman(a) and the participants who come to drink Ayahuasca and be healed.

To drink Ayahuasca safely you don’t need any particular experience with psychedelics but, you should follow some basic guidelines which I’ll discuss in this post. Keep reading.

The shaman(a) SHOULD be experienced (often 10 years or more training is required) in order to safely and appropriately be able to have enough power to induce healing but, also to do so safely. To drink Ayahuasca you are opening up a door to a spiritual world in which, many of us, have very little experience in. In this way, there are many things, spiritually, which you could fall prey to if you are not doing Ayahuasca with a well trained shaman(a).

To the un-initiated this may seem like a throw away paragraph however, once you’ve been exposed to Ayahuasca you understand that these things are real and can manifest themselves in such ways as depression, anxiety, low energy, feeling negative or even as physical ailments.

When can you drink Ayahuasca?

You can drink Ayahuasca at any time of year wherever you can find a ceremony to attend. In the Amazon, where I have done it, the wet season is more humid and the dry season is hence a little more comfortable.

The other side of this question is that in order to prepare for Ayahuasca you should do so when you have been through a dieta and come up with some intentions. Read about both of those below as they are very very very important.

My personal history with the medicine:

I had heard about Ayahuasca through podcasts through 2016 and 2017. I was interested and a break in my work schedule was coming up so I jumped at the opportunity to freelance for a year from South America.

During this time I drank Ayahuasca in 3 different settings. First, in August 2018 I did a 5 day retreat at Santuario Ayahuasca Retreat. 6 months later I went back for 2 weeks. About 5 months later I did one ceremony in Colombia.

Ayahuasca was my first psychedelic but, I have done psychedelic mushrooms in high doses since then.

Outcomes and what I’ve learned

After doing so much psychedelics (people do more than that in a similar time but it’s quite a lot) I had great opportunities to integrate all the lessons while freelancing and traveling. This was a very important aspect of the path of psychedelics for healing which I think gets over looked in my writing here on this site. This gave me the opportunity to have a lot of control over my life and hence I could really spend a lot of time focussing on the Ayahuasca experiences themselves and the lessons they provided.

Ego dissolution (Ego Death):

What is ego dissolution (ego death):

Ego dissolution (or death) refers to the process of not being ‘in ones mind’ to the point where you can recognize the minds patterning as just that, patterning, not necessarily who you are. There is a difference in that one sounds like it’s permanent and other sounds like something you can work to change. I suggest the later is true more often than many think.

Ego dissolution exists on a scale, at one end is ‘ego death’ and the other mild ‘ego dissolution’.

  • In its more mild form ego dissolution is being aware of your thoughts and taking appropriate action once you are aware of a certain thought. This is the kind of ego dissolution that is common with continuous meditation.
  • At the more extreme end of the scale, is ‘ego death’ where the dissolution is so extreme that you temporarily lose the feeling of having a body.

Why is ego dissolution (ego death) useful?

Ego dissolution allows you to ‘be the observer’. Instead of being in your thoughts you are ‘beside them’. This can be very useful in times of anxiety, depression, negative thought patterns, anger problems, getting along with people better, interacting with friends, colleagues and loved ones more lovingly and easily and, dealing with addictions.

When you have experienced a significant amount of ego dissolution you start to see the things I’ve mentioned above as patterns the mind has fallen into for various reasons.

The other thing ego dissolution does it make you realize that you are not you addictions. Once you start to ‘be beside’ your mind and its various patterns you realize that you are not them. If you are standing beside your patterns or in other words you are outside of your mind (in a healthy way) then there must be other parts of yourself that comprise you.

When you combine this concept of being more than just the patterns you have fallen into and being able to stand beside them then you find that things like addictions, negative thought patterns and the other things I mentioned above become very much easier to deal with.

In the matter of days and weeks you can achieve this kind of perspective with Ayahuasca or other psychedelics.

Here is how it might play out for me in a real life example. I have negative thought patterns.

Before Ayahuasca, when a negative thought would pop into my head (usually when I was trying to do something hard like working out or solving a hard problem at work for example) it would often trigger a series of negative thoughts and spiral out of control. Before I knew it, several hours had past and I was exhausted, didn’t achieve what I wanted to and would probably now seem upset, angry, tired, a bit of a cunt to my loved ones, friends and colleagues.

After Ayahuasca, when a negative thought pattern pops into the ol’ noggin I can, in real time, recognize it. I can notice under what circumstances negative thoughts arise for me and start to think about why I am feeling that way. Usually I can come to the conclusion very quickly that having that thought is not rational. This helps me not get into a spiral of negative thoughts and I don’t take that shitty version of myself onto other people in my life.

This sounds a lot like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (which I’ve also tried) but, is way more effective because Ayahuasca is so intense an experience. The intensity of it means you have a significant experience and change of behaviour in a very quick turn around, ie hours or days.

When you also consider that the active ingredient of Ayahuasca, being DMT, is also chemically similar to Serotonin (an important chemical in the brain related to our neural processes) then you can start to see how perhaps Ayahuasca was meant to be something that we could use to re-program our minds away from damaging addictions and psychological patterns.

These concepts of re-writing are not only my own. I had them independently of also finding them in scientific research. I think they say a similar thing to what I have been attempting to say in the above two paragraphs.

This study says that,

As Ayahuasca alkaloids enhance synaptic plasticity, increase neurogenesis and boost dopaminergic neurotransmission, and those processes are involved in memory reconsolidation and fear extinction, the fear response triggered by the memory can be reprogramed and/or extinguished. Subsequently, the memory is stored with this updated significance. To date, it is unclear if new memories replace, co-exist with or bypass old ones.

Psychedelic Ayahuasca Heals Traumatic Memories via a Sigma 1 Receptor


The other thing I learned or rather was introduced to was spirituality. I had perviously never been religious or even spiritual. I rolled my eyes at mentions of crystals and other woo-woo non-sense. I still do, although now I give them a little more leeway to be true nowa days.

The reason for this is because while you are under the influence of the Ayahuasca brew you feel as if you are in communications with ‘something’. A spirit for lack of a better world. She is commonly known as Mother Ayahuasca or Madre de Ayahausca in Spanish.

It’s not someone else’s voice that I hear in my head, it’s not my internal voice. It’s as if words and more frequently concepts and ideas are put into my head. This is how she communicates with me both in and out of ceremony. I sometimes have the same experiences when I’m sleeping or coming out of sleep.

These experiences being the case it makes you start to change your whole world view. After drinking Ayahuasca 8 times I had to now reframe how I thought about the world. I had to investigate synchronicities, because they started happening to me, I had to learn about buddhism as it also talks about very similar concepts as those raised during Ayahuasca.

So, now I research and investigate various other spiritual views of the world. Buddhism plays a role, reading and listening to channeled audio books play a role, joining various psychedelic groups on Reddit and YouTube plays a role.

So, what have I learned spiritually? Well, I think the most important thing I can share with you is that Mother Ayahuasca told me, and many others, that this life we find ourselves in is a simulation. One in which our higher selves reincarnate into in order to learn lessons that will help our higher selves progress. A higher self could also be understood as a ‘soul’ as well although I think it’s not an exact match for meaning.

She told me that my life here is to navigate the world as best I can and to connect with her frequently. Connect, get lessons, and then go back out and navigate. You can do whatever you want here, just don’t hurt people.

Later I came across various concepts of ‘law of attraction (eye roll again!) and learning to control your life based on your emotions. This is still very much a work in progress for me but, now I try to go out into the world with love for myself, and love for others. This means that I treat myself more lovingly and I treat others more lovingly. If someone is an arsehole to me, I try to treat them with love and compassion. As I say, its a work in progress but it makes me feel good and so I will continue it for now.

Update: A real life example of these things might be useful here. While working in a highly strung office scenario where the boss and other employees were arguing a lot I was also feeling stressed however not as much as the others.

Every morning, I would walk to walk for about 30 minutes and had time to think about my reactions. I decided to be as uplifting and useful as possible to those in the office. Regardless of how they were treating each other and me at times. I was able to keep their spirits up and also do good work for them because that is also what they needed. I found that the bosses all valued my hard work and appreciated the efforts I was putting in. They were happy. The other colleagues enjoyed me making them laugh and easing the stress they felt int he office.

While I didn’t solve the problems I acted with love for everyone and ignored by ego’s desire to feel stressed, complain and generally become demotivated. At this stage of the company this could have been dire as they needed the projects I was working on to pay the salaries of us all.

This is just a small example of how you can help people and become valued by the people in your life by choosing love.

In summary, many people would think me nuts for writing these things there are a growing number of people who are on board as well. Check out this podcast here with 434 and TripWhip which I stumbled upon while writing this post. Now that’s a synchronicity 🙂

Connection and navigation:

Another important aspect of my psychedelic experiences is the ‘connect and navigate’ message I received under influence of psychedelic mushrooms. It’s related to spirituality, life as a simulation, ego dissolution, nihilism and how to approach life.

Note: It was Mother Ayahuasca who came to me during the trip – not the Mushroom Entities themselves. It did have a different ‘flavor’ to the trip however:)

While taking mushrooms I was told that this world is a simulation. That we come here to level up our souls. We are free to walk of this world and take as we will as long as you don’t hurt anyone. I was told that I should ‘connect’ with her frequently (via psychedelics or meditation or however) and then I should go out in the world and navigate.

Navigation means doing the things we want to do. These will be different for everyone but, for me these are things like,

  • Climb a mountain,
  • look after your sick grandmother,
  • build a business,
  • quit your job in pursuit of a dream,
  • play it safer and hold down a boring job,
  • learn ju-jitsu,
  • learn another language,
  • get your heart broken,
  • herniate a disc because you cycled for 14 hours in a row,
  • change careers and fail,
  • change careers and succeed,
  • become a vegetarian,
  • eat meat.

This world, like a video game, is full of fun things to do, learning curves, failures, heart break and all the rest. Do the things which appeal to you but play the game!

Look at your life as if it’s a game and act accordingly.

Words of warning:


Some people, when faced with the idea that life is a game become nihilistic. “What’s the point?”, they say. Well, to them I say as TripWhip does in the above video.

(I’m summarising) If you were playing a video game you wouldn’t sit down and do nothing. You would figure out what you can do in the game and then go do it.

The point is that when faced with an opportunity to do all of these things that the game presents, you didn’t opt to not have those experiences, you opted to embrace them. As long you area acting from love while doing them then you’re winning.

How far should you take this?

Should you quit your job, leave your family and go join the circus? Maybe, maybe not. The first rule of the game is not to hurt people. So, that might leave out leaving your family or any other action you might be considering. Then what about yourself. Your part of ‘anyone’ as well. So, don’t do things which will cause you hurt either. This means don’t cut your arm off just because it’s a game. But it doesn’t mean don’t try something because you might fail or be worse of financially.

A further caveat: All the these decisions should also pass through your own filter. For example, if you’re not into getting married then you don’t have to. If you’re more risk adverse and consider it too risky to leave your job in pursuit of a dream then that is also fine.

I realize I may have confused the subject further and contradicted myself but thats the complex nature of this life and the game. What’s right for me and what’s right for you isn’t really the same thing. As long as you are acting from love to yourself and others then there isn’t really a right or wrong way to play the game. That is the ultimate goal of our existence here.

Should you also do Ayahuasca?

I think the easiest thing to say is that if you have found this blog post then you are probably interested or open minded to it. In that case, I say yes DO IT! Do your research and find a good place or shaman(a), prepare well and do it.

I don’t recommend it to everyone however. I think that you need to be open to it in a certain way in order for it to help you. Hence, if you are someone who doesn’t like the idea of psychedelics then either it isn’t for you or you haven’t done enough research into psychedelics.

What would I say to someone preparing for their first Ayahuasca ceremony(s):

In short, you should do your research but to be specific.

  1. When you sit and drink the Ayahuasca brew you should do so with intention. You can guide your experiences with Ayahuasca by creating ‘intentions’. These are specific questions or concepts you can meditate/focus on during your ceremony in order to heal yourself in/of a particular thing. You also don’t need to have a specific intention to drink but many do. If you’d like to read more about how to create an intention then check out this article I wrote about it.
  2. So, before you drink spend some time thinking about what your intentions will be.
  3. The next thing to do would be to undertake a dieta. Somewhere between 3 days and 1 month before you drink start your dieta. A dieta is both a physical and energetic diet that you undertake. Physically you are restricted to eat certain things and energetically you should also restrict certain things. For example, red meat is off the menu as it most dairy and certain other foods. Also, things like sex (including with yourself), the people you hang out with, the books and things you listen/read are all part of the diet as well.
  4. You can read more about how to prepare for your dieta here in this article. You can also read this reddit thread which is a very clear breakdown of what the dieta is in reality.
  5. Then you’ll drink. Be sure to be happy with your choice of retreat. Not all of them are great or focussed on healing. If you are at a loss for a recommendation from someone you know well then feel free to check out Santuario Retreat where I did Ayahuasca.
  6. After Ayahuasca, the work continues. Integration or putting the lessons you learned into effect is often just as much work as the ceremonies. You can take this integration as far as you life. Go hardcore and spend years working on yourself. Or take the lessons and integrate them over a couple of weeks and move on. As is often the case, take a middle ground approach. Long enough to make the lessons cemented into you as patterns but, not so long that you are self-indulgently continue to work on yourself without extrapolating the higher lesson that we are all one and instead of focussing on yourself for a long time you should also focus on helping and loving others. There is a balance of course.
    • Also, there is no particular integration practice that appears to be standard. I would recommend that post ayahuasca you continue the dieta for between 3 days and 1 month depending on your level of commitment and then have some sort of support network to talk through any potential issues you have. There are a couple ways to do this.
      • Hire a remote psychologist who is experienced with psychedelics. A regular psychologist is often not qualified to deal with issues related to integration as they are quite specific and tend to be outside the framework of many psychotherapists realms of knowledge and belief. MAPS has a list of those which you can hire in order to speak to someone. Check out this link to view them.
      • Another, more low key option, is to use Reddit. There is a community (including myself) of people in the Ayahuasca Sub Reddit which are often fielding all sorts of questions related to Ayahuasca. They can be very useful for integration questions.
      • Of course, if you know someone who you trust who is also experienced in psychedelics and their integration then obviously speak to them at regular intervals as well.
      • It’s not uncommon to check in one a month for 3-6 months in any of these support structures.

What should you look for in a retreat?

Obviously I’m biased towards my retreat, Santuario. I’ll shamelessly plug it all over this website but while it’s a great places there are other great places also. Here are som things to look for in a retreat from my experience.

  1. Try to learn about the shaman(a)’s history with the medicine. It takes quite a while to get good at this and ideally they should have about 10 years worth of experience and have come from a lineage of other masters. To the un-trained eye this alleviates the worry of an inexperienced or nefarious imposter duping you into a ceremony which might harm you, put you in danger and risk losing your money.
  2. Ask a friend. Do you know anyone who has been to a retreat which they would recommend? If so, that might be the one for you. That’s how I found Santuario.
  3. A word on costs: I wrote another post on the cost of Ayahuasca retreats in Peru which may be of use in understanding what some of the costs are including flights and logistics. Note: Pucallpa is easier to get to than Iquitos and hence, might save you some cash in terms of flights.

What does Ayahuasca do to you? (RISKS)

Can you die from Ayahuasca?

While Ayahuasca is a drug it’s not possible to die from it directly like other drugs. It is however to die from some of the other medicinal plants also associated with going to an Ayahuasca retreat (ie tobacco cleansing) and by other factors associated with going to a retreat (lack of care and remote location for example.

I wrote an article which looks into anecdotes about how Ayahuasca associated deaths have come to being and based on research on the net formed the opinion that Ayahuasca is not lethal in and of itself but when combined with it’s environment can be fatal given certain circumstances You can read more about it here.

Other risks

So, now the main risk has been addressed the other risks are below. I also describe how you can overcome them.

  • Ayahuasca should not be mixed with certain medications. There is quite a lot that don’t mix well with Ayahuasca and ideally you would drink Ayahuasca without any pharmaceutical medications in your system at all however some are considered OK.
    • Examples of medications you should not have in your system while drinking Ayahuasca would be medications for depression (SSRI’s for example) and certain malarial medications.
    • How do you know? Ask your doctor if the medication you’re on would interact badly with an MAOI. An MAOI is one of the characteristics of the Ayahuasca Plant which is used in the brew also named Ayahuasca.
  • Ayahuasca should usually not be taken by those with psychosis ( bi-polarism or multiple-personalities for example ) or those who are at risk of psychosis. This is because psychedelics can lead to a psychotic break or indeed a worsening of an existing psychotic condition.
    • NOTE: In my understanding based on reading around the net it is not forbidden to drink Ayahuasca if you are at risk due to psychosis but that you need to have a lot more support in place to do so and of the right kind. It is perhaps not probable that you are able to get such support and in this case it is not recommended that you take psychedelics.
  • You should also of course follow a dieta as well. It is possible that certain foods you consume in the lead up to drinking Ayahuasca can also interact badly with Ayahuasca given it is an MAOI. In my opinion this is not overly likely but also isn’t the main reason why you would do a dieta.
    • In my opinion, a dieta is important for deepening the ability of Ayahuasca to heal you and also shows a level of commitment which is sort of a test in ego dissolution in and of itself. That test being, can you control your mind enough to restrict your habits enough to even prepare for Ayahuasca.

What does Ayahuasca do to your brain?

Under the correct circumstances (ie you’re not on medication or have a psychosis etc) Ayahuasca doesn’t do anything detrimental to your brain.

I write an article going into more detail about this topic which you can read here but in short,

  • The Ayahuasca brew is drunk and the active ingredient in it (DMT) is absorbed into your blood stream.
  • Form there it eventually crosses the blood-brain barrier and attaches to your serotonin receptors because DMT is chemically similar to Serotonin – a naturally produced chemical in your body that is highly relevant to your brains neurology.
  • From here, scientists are unsure exactly what happens but there are some interesting theories which you can read in the more in depth article above.
  • The one I like the most is the possibility that psychedelics shut down your mind or at least reduce it’s activity to the point where you are able to experience the spiritual world around you which your mind, when active, is usually filtering out.

Does ayahuasca make you vomit?

Usually yeah but not always. Don’t let this put you off. You won’t purge very much or feel very bad from it if you follow the dieta well. This is because the dieta removes a lot of the ‘bad stuff’ from your system already. Hence, when you come to drink you won’t need to purge very much as your system is already clean. Nuff said.

What can Ayahuasca do for you? (BENEFITS)

I think we’ve covered these already in the above content but in short, the benefits of Ayahuasca can be summed up in the below table.

Ayahuasca Benefit:How does it help exactly?Further references:
Helps with depression and stress.Ayahuasca has been proven to help people have less stress and depression even 4 weeks after consuming. Satisfaction with life and aspects of mindfulness were also experienced.Psychedelic Ayahuasca Heals Traumatic Memories via a Sigma 1 Receptor
Helps with PTSDIn the same study as above PTSD was seen to bring back repressed memories and ‘re-write’ them. It also says, “Since SIGMAR1 mobilises synaptic receptor, boosts synaptic plasticity and modulates epigenetic processes, such effects might be involved in the reported healing of traumatic memories in PTSD patients. If this theory proves to be true, Ayahuasca could come to represent the only standing pharmacological treatment which targets traumatic memories in PTSDPsychedelic Ayahuasca Heals Traumatic Memories via a Sigma 1 Receptor
Helps with negative thought patternsAnother study shows evidence that Ayahuasca may foster the acceptance of thoughts and feelings and may be therapeutic for those who experience negative thoughts.Long-term effects of ayahuasca
Helps with some physical ailmentsIt’s been proposed that because physical ailments have psychosomatic components that Ayahuasca can help with them also.

Its known also that Amazonian communities with histories of Ayahuasca use also use it to heal physical as well as mental components.
Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization

Vice also made an article based on this topic.
Helps with experiencing more loveReading around the internet and trip reports it’s common for people to feel intense feelings of love. For themselves and others. I think this is related to ego-dissolution as the ego it often between us feeling as if we are close to other people and ourselves.
Helps you reframe your life and find next stepsDrinking Ayahuasca can often help with clarifying what to do next in your life. Often the results are more natural ways of living, changes in career which make you more happy for example.
Helps with psychological traumaTrauma of all kinds can be helped by Ayahuasca as this study shows.
As Ayahuasca alkaloids enhance synaptic plasticity, increase neurogenesis and boost dopaminergic neurotransmission, and those processes are involved in memory reconsolidation and fear extinction, the fear response triggered by the memory can be reprogramed and/or extinguished. Subsequently, the memory is stored with this updated significance. To date, it is unclear if new memories replace, co-exist with or bypass old ones.
Psychedelic Ayahuasca Heals Traumatic Memories via a Sigma 1 Receptor
Helps with becoming more aware of your self (similar to meditation)Ayahuasca leads to significant or even extreme amounts of ego-dissolution which is the same phenomena as is developed by meditation.
Helps with becoming more spiritualAyahuasca can put you in touch with the spiritual world. Mother Ayahuasca is the spirit of Ayahuasca which is well known to be the entity helping you and talking to you during a ceremony.

One theory posits that the human mind is filtering much of the spiritual information around us. Psychedelics help to reduce this effect for several hours while your drinking Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca and Addiction:There are various studies which suggest Ayahuasca as a promising treatment for various drug and alcohol addictions.Ayahuasca and potential uses in addiction

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