Ayahuasca is not what you expect
So you probably read multiple stories on the Internet about Ayahuasca, watched countless videos on it and you are really excited, nervous, afraid, hopeful and much more for your Ayahuasca ceremony.
You are starting to develop a lot of expectations toward your ceremony. Starting to have a preconceived idea on how it will be like.
And then, it is completely different. Maybe to a degree that you are even asking yourself, did it actually work for me…?
The answer is yes, the Ayahuasca just works in a lot of different ways. So this Blog will help answer a lot of questions you have around your Ayahuasca ceremony, the timeline of the ceremony, what happens on the outside, and how your perceived experience might be like. Also, you will learn about the mental attitudes for your Ayahuasca ceremony and how those will assist you in your journey.
At the same times there are certain rules and recommendations in an Ayahuasca ceremony and you will also learn about certain tips on how to go deeper in your journey.
- An Ayahuasca ceremony has different elements like silence, music, smokes, incenses etc.
- Your Ayahuasca ceremony will be an introspective journey. In a way it is a mirror to your soul and you will receive the message that is necessary for you at this moment of your life. You might encounter repressed emotions.
- Also your Ayahuasca vision is not just what you see with your eyes (open or closed) but also about the understandings that come to you and what you feel in your heart.
Table of Contents
Timeline for the ceremony:
What happens on the outside
Every tribe has their own way of doing the ceremony. The cofan tribe is generally known for a very strict way of conducint ceremony. Whereas the ceremonies of Yawanawa tribe from Brazil are filled with a lot of dancing and singing.
It does not mean one way is better than the other, just that their tradition of working with the medicine is different.
In the upcoming paragraphs I want to share the way we do our ceremonies which comes from the Kamsa Biya tribe.
Before the ceremony the shaman blesses the Ayahuasca, he says his prayers. This prayers are the shamans way of connect with the great spirit. However, it is not about Dogma that this belief system is better than the other and is inclusive towards all religion.
The smoke of copal is blown on each participant to neutralize and harmonize the energy before the ceremony as well.
Each person drinks the Ayahuasca, also the shaman and his helpers. After that we sit down and meditate.
You do want to keep in the Ayahuasca for at least 15 – 20 minutes. In case you do lose a track of time, withstand the first (and maybe second) urge to vomit.
Usually the first effects of the medicine are noticeable after 45 minutes, however at times it can happen sooner or later.
In the beginning of the ceremony we work a lot with silence but do start to accompany the ceremony with different instruments to also maintain a certain level of rhythm in the ceremony as well.
In the tradition of the Kamsa Biya it is recommended to sit as much as possible. But especially before you have vomited. When you lay down, your body is accustomed to going to sleep and then the effects of the medicine will go down as well.
Then after about 2 – 3 hours the time comes for a possible second cup, and even later some feel the calling for a third cup and they can do that as well.
During the ceremony we move the energy with different smokes, incenses, tobacco, the Waira, music, various instruments as well as other tools in our repetoire.
Generally you can say the ceremonies varies between silence and rhythms of the musics.
What happens on the inside
So, once you drink the Ayahuasca you sit down and basically wait for the medicine to take effect. The Ayahausca might be heavy on your body, some parts of you might also want to vomit it out right away. Breathe slowly and ask the Ayahuasca to stay in.
Ideally you meditate on your intention. However, what I noticed in me (especially when I started drinking) that my thoughts used to be very loud and scattered.
It’s basically the last resistance of the mind, ego to stay in control. It knows that something is coming that will challenge the mind / ego. Knowing this helps, do not put too much attention to it.
We prepared a separate blog specifically about vomiting and the significance of purging in an Ayahuasca ceremony:
The effect of the Ayahuasca can start very subtle and build up, maybe it will be triggered by the music or other things happening throughout the ceremony. Or it just takes full effect right away. This is really individual.
During the ceremony you might be thinking, how will I explain this to my friends and family, you might be thinking about what to share in the integration circle the next day.
All of that is not important right now. You are distracting yourself with thoughts instead of feeling. Whenever you are encountering something, you really do want to stay as present with the feeling as possible. What you feel you can heal.
You might also notice how you are even escaping from yourself in ceremony. That you put your attention on random things instead of really going to the core of things. It is ok, it is a process to be as fully present as possible.
I just want to bring awareness to you that this might happen. Do not beat yourself about it, when this happens, just return to your breath and focus on yourself.
What to do when things get (really) difficult
First, know that this will not last forever. You will go through it and come out stronger at the end. Also, your breath is your friend. Start to breathe slower, through your nose, into your stomach.
Additionally, if you start to regain composure and start to sit up, be in an upright position you will notice regaining your composure. Your body language affects how you feel and if you roll around the floor you will keep on being more “uncontrolled” whereas if you start to go back into a more solid position you will start to recenter again.
Another important factor is to remember that you are drinking Ayahuasca. That you will be ok and this is part of the process.
You can of course always ask for help and the shamans have different ways of harmonizing the energy, However, they cannot stop the effect of the medicine either. At the same time feel into if you really do need the help.
Many times our first reaction when we are in difficulty is to ask for help. Through this mechanism it will be hard to find the strength within.
Every situation is different and sometimes you really do need some help, and also ask for it or the guide will notice it and be there for you as well.
But traditionally the shamans actually help the people very little and are a big proponent of “sitting with the medicine” and you will find the answer and strength within.
It is also important that you prepared for your Ayahuasca ceremony. You can find out more about it in the Blog:
Will I face my darkest demons?
This is a very common idea about Ayahuasca and also a reason why so many people are afraid of it. And yes, maybe you will face your deepest, darkest demons and parts of yourself.
A lot of times we think we need a whipping to finally get our sh*t together. Maybe that’s what you need, but in most cases what the people need is compassion and love. Ayahuasca is a lot more loving medicine then people think of it. So it is a lot rarer occasion than one thinks.
Ayahuasca is a master plant and in a way it knows you better than you know yourself. It knows what you need in this moment in your journey.
Let’s say you have a wound and most likely Ayahuasca will work on closing and healing that wound first, before showing you other parts which are hurting that you are not ready to face yet. Have trust.
But it can be that Ayahuasca takes you to that place. Showing you your subconscious fears. And it is great to experience those in the safe container of a ceremony.
It gives you strength, because you already faced them. You won’t be controlled by them any longer. You notice that it is so much more an idea of the mind than reality. That fear is a teacher, that it shows you the end of your comfort zone.
That pushing past it will allow you to expand in your consciousness and personality. Ayahuasca will help you find a stronger part of yourself.
Whatever comes up, do not try to run away from it. Face it, continue on with trust and confidence and Ayahuasca will show you the path of healing.
Surrender to the experience:
When it get’s stronger and stronger, stop fighting it. Accept is, surrender to it. Say, ok show me. Face it. Really the only way is to go through it.
Some people want to start going outside of the ceremony place because it is starting to get really intense. Do not do that. Stay there and allow the Ayahuasca to go through you. Also, one time something came up for me in a ceremony, and I was, puh I am really not ready to face this yet. And the Ayahuasca did respect it as well and it didn’t take me there.
So you can also communicate and ask it for things. In the end the topic came up for me in the following ceremony, because it was something that I really did need to go through it.
I just want to share this experience that you can navigate a bit in your ceremony, but in the end allow it to be, instead of pushing it away.
What if you do not feel anything:
This can happen as well, I would say to about 10 – 20 % of the people drinking Ayahuasca for the first time. Which is obviously frustrating because you most likely had high expectations going into the ceremony.
Think about the topic of ceremony consciousness and what are things you can still take away from.
I had a friend who came to a ceremony and he just drank half a cup because he had a lot of respect and a certain level of fear as well. He didn’t really feel the medicine but he shared just sitting there for multiple hours contemplating about his life did help him a lot as well. So do not just wait for the medicine to take effect, but consciously meditate on your intention.
Another friend said he wasn’t able to connect with the medicine either. After six months he did share with me that things have changed in his life.
By purging you already start to let go of negative energy and also by making a couple of different life choices, letting go of some habits that no longer serve you, shifting the direction of your life slightly can result in significant changes 3 or 6 months, or maybe a couple of years down the line.
The indigenous Taitas share with us to not only look for the immediate effect or experience of the medicine but really focus on how life starts to transform after your ceremony.
Must-read Blog: Ayahuasca Integration: How to maintain the magic of Ayahuasca.
Mental attitude for the ceremony:
You are about to go on a very personal journey. It is normal that you are anxious and nervous. Maybe you are even afraid to a degree. In the end you are about to go into the unknown, into your subconscious mind, maybe face some things you have buried for a very long time.
At the same time, it is important that you have trust. Trust in yourself, the facilitators, the Ayahuasca and maybe even a higher power, the universe, God, whatever you want to call it. Again this is not about dogma, just sharing that this trust can really help.
Trust is an important overall topic for the ceremony. It allows you to open up, to know that you are held and supported, so you can make the experience that you need to have to keep on growing in your life.
It helps that you talk with the facilitators before the ceremony, to get to know their “energy”. That you establish that trust with them. That you feel comfortable and safe that those are the “right” people for you to make the experience.
You want to drink with faith and love. That whatever comes up you will be able to handle. That whatever comes up is here to teach you. That it is here to confront certain errors in you, so you can learn from them. That you can feel the pain you have been burying, so you can feel liberated from it. And even if it pushes you to your limit. You are a lot stronger than you think.
Also, drink with love. It is ok and important to face certain dark aspects of ourselves, but in the end the healing always comes through the love and light.
So drink with love, faith and trust and know that everything will turn out fine.
Are you ready for your Ayahuasca retreat? Feel free to consider our Ayahuasca Retreat in Colombia.
Ayahuasca ceremony what to expect: Common questions:
Will I see (sacred) geometric forms?
Maybe. I see them and they are absolutely beautiful. Also in many ceremonies I have not seen them, especially in the beginning of my journey.
Notably, if you are coming to a ceremony wanting to see amazing fractions, then it is likely that Ayahuasca hides them from you. Because this is not what Ayahuasca is about.
Will I see visions?
Again, maybe… Maybe you have a very clear vision about yourself, your future or about the past. Me personally, I very seldomly have visions (like in a movie) in my Ayahuasca ceremony. But to be honest, the Ayahuasca vision is not just what you see with your eyes (or with your eyes closed).
It is so much more about what you feel in your heart. So the visions do not just include the visual aspects but the whole experience, how it made you feel, the realizations you had, those are all a part of your Ayahuasca vision.
Will I be able to navigate, walk around?
In most cases yes, sometimes you will have a little hard time maintaining your balance when you stand up. And very few times you are really gone in the world of Ayahuasca that you stop realizing what is happening around you.
This however is very seldomly the case. Also, do not be afraid of it. When Taita sees somebody being very strong on the medicine he says, how beautiful. By us diving deep it can allow us to explore ourselves on a deeper level. And even if we do not understand with our logical mind what happened, what you receive is a message for your soul, for your spirit.
Will I go crazy?
Most likely not… There is a very small percentage of people who are so overwhelmed they start to act in a very abnormal manner. Swinging there arms around, maybe even screaming, all of this can happen. And there are ways to deal with that for us as facilitators and we make sure that the ceremony space is safe for everybody. Of course I am talking about the part in the ceremony. After the ceremony is over you will return back to normal, don't worry.
Will I be able to go to the bathroom?
Yes, in 99,99 % of the time it is absolutely no problem. Also a quick tip, do not trust the fart on Ayahuasca because one of the side effects is diarrhea so do not be lazy in not wanting to go to the bathroom.
What if somebody is going crazy in the ceremony / There is a lot of chaos?
There are different ways to handle this. One is to separate the person from the group and work with them one-on-one. However, sometimes the situation does not allow for this. It's easy to blame the person, saying “because of him/her or this situation, I couldn't have the ceremony I wanted.” This is an easy way out.
Just like in life, there may be distractions in ceremonies. And just like in life, there may be people who trigger you in ceremonies. See it as a lesson. How can you maintain your energy? You can, you just need focus.
How many cups should I drink?
It depends on your process. Some people drink one cup, and they feel the effect of the Ayahuasca the whole night. Others need multiple cups to connect, or they want to go deeper on with each cup.
This also can have a correlation to your physical size but not necessarily. At one of our recent ceremonies we had a guy who was 1,95 m drink one cup and he had a very strong process, while a shorter women needed 3 cups to start to connect with the Ayahuasca. And keep in mind, they both drank the same Ayahuasca.
It also depends on how well you prepared and on how clean your body is. But also on how ready your spirit is to go there. Some people’s spirit is just really ready to receive the healing and they connect very well. Other’s really need to go for multiple cups (maybe also multiple ceremonies) to start to connect.
It was like that for me, I didn’t feel anything on my first 3 cups of Ayahuasca in my first ceremony. Looking back I know it was a sign of how disconnected I was with myself and that I needed a lot of Ayahuasca to connect with myself. I did end up going for a 4th cup which did the magic for me.
At the same time I also did demonstrate to the Ayahuasca, that I am here to go deep, that I am ready to go through the physical uncomfortabilty of drinking Ayahuasca and then I was rewarded. It is really individual for everybody and the best is to talk in that moment with your guide and feel within.
Generally, I see a lot of value in going for another round if you have the strength within. It helps break down our walls. You will feel a certain level of physical pain, stomach ache, vomiting, Ayahuasca does take a toll on the body. But it also rewards you. And to see how much you can “accomplish” / “let go” in one night, I definitely do see that it is worth it.
At the same time, also allow yourself to be patient. You don’t need to resolve all of your life challenges in one ceremony.
It is also important to look into your intention with going for the next cup. Do you drink out of curiosity, out of “greed for more consciousness” (I have been there), or do you drink because you feel like there is something inside of yourself that you do want to let go of, explore on a deeper level, break through or heal. The second is a great intention, the first intention you might be in for a slap from Ayahuasca (which can also turn out to be a great lesson).
Ayahuasca ceremony what to expect: Will my Ayahuasca ceremony be similar to my last one?
Also, every Ayahuasca ceremony is different, even every cup of Ayahuasca will trigger different processes in you. Just because you experienced a couple of Ayahuasca ceremonies before, do not think you know now what Ayahuasca is like.
You start to get an idea, but it really is a mystery and has so many different ways of teaching us.
Is the ceremony at night or at day?
So the indigenous always drink at night, and they also usually start pretty late (around 10:30 / 11 pm). It has multiple reasons. The visions are stronger at night, there are fewer distractions, and also you are generally more tranquilo, not overhyped as you might be during the day.
At the same time, there are also shamans who share Ayahuasca during the day and there are advantages to it as well. You will have more energy which helps you concentrate easier on your process.
Usually after 4 am it does start to get challenging to stay awake and attentive to the messages of the medicine. You generally do not have that problem during the day.
So there is not really a right or wrong answer here, (I personally love drinking during the day), but traditionally Ayahuasca ceremonies take place at night.
How long do you feel the psychoactive effects of the Ayahuasca?
An Ayahuasca ceremony takes about 6 – 8 hours. How long the psychoactive effect is for you depends on various components and is individual but also factors in how many cups of Ayahuasca you drink. After the ceremony you want to eat something. T
his could (re-)start the psychoactive effect as well. So eat something while you are still around the ceremony place and the shaman just in case. After you ate something, and no effect is coming up, the Ayahuasca ceremony is finished. However, this does not mean, that it will not stop working within you.
In can show itself in more vivid dreams the upcoming days and generally being in a sensitive state.
Must read: How to integrate the messages of Ayahuasca
In the first part of the blog I share on what to expect the first 3 – 7 days after your Ayahusaca ceremony.
Should I go to a private ceremony?
Some people prefer to go to a private ceremony. It is because they do not want others to see them when they are vulnerable.
To be seen when they are vomiting. They are preoccupied what will come out in a ceremony and because of that prefer it that it is in a private setting, where nobody else sees that part of themselves. And I understand and there is a possibility for private ceremonies / retreats.
At the same time, it is a great process for you as well to share with others. You probably have it inside you, that you need to be perfect or that you want to be seen in a certain way. It is really beautiful to meet others on this journey.
To share vulnerability, to be seen just the way you are at that moment and realize that people still care, love and respect you. So there is a lot of value for you personally if you face the uncomfortable and start sharing the different aspects of yourself.
What should you bring to an Ayahuasca ceremony:
This depends a lot on the type of ceremony you are going to and what is provided by the place you are going to. Generally, you want to have warm, comfortable clothes.
You are more sensitive on Ayahuasca which can lead to you being cold as well. Of course, you always want to have toilet paper on you, so you are prepared when you vomit and don’t need to look around for it. Also, bring what else you need to be comfortable, maybe a pillow, extra blankets, maybe also a mattress, again depending on what is provided and what not in the ceremony.
Other than that, you can also bring a lucky charm, whatever it is for you that can help you recenter, but this is also not a requirement.
What you do not want to bring is money, your cellphone or other valuables to the ceremony. Because you might have an urge to reach out to somebody, which is not a good idea when you are on the effect of the medicine.
Or you are sick of your addiction to your phone, or attachment to money and start throwing it away, which on the next day you will most likely regret :). The same goes for valuables.
Rules for the ceremony:
Ayahuasca is the spirit of the grandmother. It has been here longer than we have. There are certain rules and guidelines to the ceremony.
We remind people of these in the ceremony if necessary. Also I share with people that we do not do this to scold you, but to maintain the order in the ceremony and that everybody has the surroundings necessary to have a great ceremony.
This is a time for you to listen, to listen to the messages of Ayahuasca. It is a time where you can go within. And most of the time it is easier to talk then it is to listen. However, in most cases it is only a distraction. Especially, after you experienced a strong emotional impact there is the urge to share, oh wow this is what happened. Safe this for the time after the ceremony.
More messages will come and also be mindful of others in the ceremony place. You do not want to interrupt and talk with them, that can get them out of their process.
Do not use electrical light:
Your eyes will be a lot more sensitive and traditionally the tribes have always worked with the fire (some even in complete darkness). So do not use electrical lights.
Focus on your own process:
This especially applies when you come to the ceremony with a romantic partner or a good friend. It is beautiful that you share this experience together and that you are both taking steps forward on your healing journey.
But the healing journey is individual. And you do not want to be preoccupied with the other person on how they are doing, you do not want to be holding hands throughout the whole ceremonies. Give each other the space to develop.
Also, do not help others in their journey, unless the guide specifically asks you to. First, you do not really know what you are doing, in what state the other person is at and what they need in that state.
You helping can actually result in some of the chaotic energy being transferred over to you and now the guide has to help two people. And if somebody is going through a hard process it is also not really pleasant for that person to have a bunch of spectators around. Just lean back and go back to focusing on your own process.
You might also be fascinated by all the sensations and impulses that are going on outside of you. This is also a distraction from what is going on inside. Try to put the focus back on the inside.
One time I saw somebody looking left and right the whole time, looking for an impulse to hold on to. In that moment he was not ready to go within. Another participant one time really wanted to help out with the fire. I told him, to not worry about it, we got it taken care of.
The activity of him looking after the fire gave his mind something to focus on. But in reality that was also an escape mechanism to not encounter what was waiting for him inside…
We are generally always distracting ourselves, running away from ourselves. Whether is is through Social Media, YouTube, maybe even music. Try to sit as much as possible with yourself, your feelings and whatever comes up in your ceremony.
Be respectful towards others and the guides in the ceremony. Sometimes there are foreigners who treat the guides like their employees, with an attitude, I paid for this ceremony and you are here to do what I like.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you have to idealize the shaman or treat him like a “celebrity”. An encounter with mutual respect is the best, nobody is above or below the other person.
Sometimes people explore their inner child in the ceremony. And they start doing things to get attention. This is challenging. Because on one hand, it is ok, sometimes things come out of us that we have suppressed and it is beautiful to connect with our inner child.
At the same time doing things which are disruptive to everybody else is really not ideal. Just be mindful that you are in a place with others.
Additional tips to go deeper in your ceremony:
From the multiple years of drinking Ayahuasca and facilitating ceremonies there are a number of things that you can do to connect on a deeper level with Ayahuasca and yourself to “get” the most out of your ceremony.
Be well rested:
You are about to go into a ceremony, most likely at night. So you want to be well rested for it, maybe even take a nap throughout the day. It is not ideal to enter the ceremony after a long work day, with a lot of things going through your mind and being tired.
Ayahuasca also is a medicine that takes a toll on your body. You will likely experience some stomach pain, you vomit, maybe some nausea. Because of that you want to be well rested. Also, we do not recommend to fast before a ceremony, you can if you are a experienced in that aspect, but not eating 6 – 7 hours before is sufficient.
What often happens to people who fast, is that there stomach is acidic and it takes the Ayahuasca longer to take effect.
Doing exercises that help you transition from your mind into your body is great. This can be Yoga, a breathwork session or whatever it is for you that helps you connect with yourself.
Take a purgative:
The cleaner the body, the easier it is for spirit to move through your body. There are different types of purgantes that you can take that clean your body. This is especially recommended if you eat a lot of processed food.
A popular example for a purgante can be Kambo, another less known is Tabacco water (only do this with supervision). From the area of the Amazon where Mama Concha is from (Sibundoy – alto Putumayo), there is a very powerful purgante called Azuvactoto. I couln’t find anything about it on the internet.
Talk with the guides that you are working with if there is a purgante that they can recommend.
Also do not take the purgante the same day of the ceremony. There should be time in between for you to rest up and recover.
Respect for Ayahuasca
Before our ceremonies we always share with people that Ayahuasa is not a drug and the difference between drugs and medicine. The reason you want to drink Ayahuasca shouldn’t be because you want to see some nice colors and halucinate.
We drink Ayahuasca because there is something inside of us that we want to explore on a deeper level, something in us that we want to heal, areas where we finally want to break through our blockages.
Also when you think you are taking a DMT Drug you might miss important messages of Ayahuasca. You will label your experience as a drug induced trip, something that is weird an irrelevant to your life. This prevents you from receiving the teachings and healing from Ayahuasca.
From personal experience and seeing hundreds of people go through the process of Ayahuasca I see a common denominator that the people who approach Ayahuasca with a lot of humility and respect generally have the deepest connection with her and go through a beautiful process.
There is a spirit inside of Ayahuasca, this is something hard to comprehend with our logical mind but once you experience it you know what I am talking about.
See Ayahuasca as a friend:
You can even go a step further and start seeing Ayahausca as a friend. The more you feel in your heart that it is a medicine, that whatever you are being shown is there for you to help heal, grow and learn, the more gentler the Ayahuasca will be to you as well.
Ceremony consciousness describes that everything that happens in the ceremony has a meaning. Especially everything that you perceive. You might see somebody have a process and you might still not feel the effect of the medicine so you think for yourself, “what is wrong with me, why is it working for him, and not for me.” This could be an indication that you compare yourself a lot to others, maybe even that you carry (a lot) of shame with you. Or you judge a person because he/ she is crying, it is a strong indication that you are generally a judgemental person.
So, it is not just the things that you experience in the strong moment of the ceremony but also the more subtle ones. Maybe the medicine takes a really long time to take an effect and you start to get frustrated. This could be a sign for you to start to develop more patience.
Maybe a person triggers you, by the way they are. Well, what is it in them that gives them so much power over you that they have an affect on how you feel.
The list is endless and each thing can mean something different for each person. Just be aware that you are in a ceremony and that you are here to learn and be attentive to the signals that are happening.
It is ok to be vulnerable:
Some people want to leave the ceremony space because they do not want others to see them vomiting. They withhold tears, because they do not want to appear weak. It’s ok. Do not worry about that.
The ceremony is a place for learning and healing for everybody. You will notice that we are not so different from others than we sometimes perceive it to be. We all drink the Ayahuasca, we are all going to vomit / go to the bathroom and even more importantly we all have things that hold us down.
Memories and strong emotions we haven’t processed, people who we haven’t forgiven, things we beat ourselves up about. All of this is a part of the human experience. And it doesn’t matter if you are a fortune 500 executive or a janitor. In the circle of the ceremony, we are all the same, nobody is above anybody and nobody is below anybody as well.
Ayahuasca ceremony what to expect: What are the side effects of Ayahuasca:
The physical side effects of Ayahuasca are vomitting and diarrhea. Ayahuasca is a purging medicine, it helps clean the body (and emotions and spirit) and this is a part of it. Therefore, dehydration is also a side effect of Ayahusca.
Make sure you hydrate well after the ceremony, maybe also with electrolytes, but not in the ceremony. If you drink a lot of water in the ceremony it will dilute the Ayahuasca and also cause more vomiting.
If you have made it this far, you know a lot more on what to expect for your Ayahuasca ceremony that I did when I started. And you also know enough. Watch some content on how to prepare for Ayahuasca but also do not overdo it.
You will just keep on rationalizing, increasing your expectation for the ceremony instead of going into it with an open mind. In the end, your subjective experience of the ceremony will be very individual. Have trust and you have everything at your disposal for a beautiful, transformational ceremony.