If you feel a calling to do an Aya retreat, then get ready for transformation in your life. In 2022 I felt compelled to attend an Ayahuasca retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Initially, I checked out various companies that offered retreats, but then I set it aside as nothing more than curiosity. But one specific retreat center kept floating around in my mind. It wouldn’t leave me alone. After five months, I realized that, for whatever reason, I was supposed to explore this crazy idea of an Ayahuasca retreat. So, I booked the retreat for April 2022. And because I don’t like to do things halfway, I signed up for a 3-week intensive retreat. 9 Aya trips. In for a penny, in for a pound.
People from all over the world and all walks of life come to Ayahuasca retreats. They came from Singapore to Venezuela, Russia to Australia, and Ireland to Kenya. Ages ranged from 18 – 70. And less you wonder how anyone in their right mind would choose to do such a retreat, think again. Doctors, nurses, teachers, IT people, dentists, lawyers, chefs, social workers, realtors, and spiritual seekers attended my Aya retreat. On the day I left; I met a couple arriving. She ran a fitness center. Her husband was a Medical Doctor. She had done cannabis and occasionally other hallucinogenics, while he had never done anything other than a little alcohol. Talk about a wake-up call. I pre-warned him that it would be an intense expansion of his mind, but that he would be safe. I often wondered how his week of 3 Aya trips would be.
Ayahuasca is a powerful sacred medicine plant that is not for the faint at heart. Don’t do it because a friend is, so you are going along as well. Only if you feel strongly called is Aya for you.
Now, you can do weekend Aya trips, but if you want transformation, then do a full retreat. There are multiple retreats to choose from, so do your research and choose an established organization with highly skilled Maestros to protect and guide you through the experience. Choose a facility that calls to your soul.
Ayahuasca Maestros dedicate their lives to healing themselves and others. During a retreat, powerful negative energy is extricated from the participant’s bodies/minds. For this reason, the Maestro protection of the group as a whole is necessary to keep all participants safe. Ayahuasca retreats are usually facilitated by Shipibo Indian Maestros who have years of training in the jungle of Peru. I was fortunate to be under the guidance of Maestro Armando, who has been a practicing Ayahuasca Medicine Man for over 25 years. His wife, Noida a Aya Maestra, for over 15 years. Their entire lives are dedicated to the Aya healing work.
The medicine tastes nasty. You will likely puke uncontrollably multiple times. The hallucinogenic aspect of the medicine is strong and powerful. At some point, you will probably ask yourself, “Holy Shit, what did I get myself into!” But throughout it all, I knew that I was safe. The staff assisting the Maestros were super attentive to one’s needs. The singing of the Maestros to the medicine and the participants is powerful and can bring with it some amazing connections and blessings. For three weeks, I sat in the temple directly in front of the Maestros, physically within feet of the energy emanating out of them. Powerful is an understatement.
The AYA experience begins with extensive purification for the month prior to the retreat. I chose to begin my preparation/cleansing three months ahead of time. A very long list of dietary exclusions is recommended to purify the digestive system and make for a better retreat experience. The same goes for medications and drugs, yes, including Cannabis. While on retreat, sacred tobacco was provided, but commercial cigarettes were banned.
The purification process is to optimize your Aya experience, and the purification continues upon your arrival. On my very first morning of the retreat, we were instructed to drink 2 Liters of warm Lemongrass tea to cleanse and prepare the stomach lining to receive the Ayahuasca that we would take later that night. 2 Liters, yes, 2 Liters to be drunk quickly as though you were chugging beer after beer. And yes, you puke that up, too.
We ate all organic fresh food. The Sacred Valley is one of the premier bread baskets in the world. The food was delicious and prepared beautifully by professional chefs. And though we ate lots of fresh fruit, we had no sugar and very little dairy of any kind. No caffeine except green tea. Minimal wheat, Minimal meat, and fish. While this might sound dull, the food was delicious, and I never went hungry or had cravings for the junk I ate back home. I attributed that in part to the high energetic quality of the living food we were eating.
We ate very light on Aya days. Generally eating light breakfast, lunch with no dinner. The Ayahuasca ceremony started about 8 in the evening and ran until 2-3 in the morning.
Once the ceremony began, no one left the temple until the ceremony fully concluded, including a time to relax and drink tea and eat fruit at the ceremony completion. It was a time to be in your own stillness or to share with friends.
There was no hangover the next day, but some of us had sleep issues. I myself was so energized by the experience that the first week I only slept a total of 15 hours, all seven days combined. Yet I was alert, relaxed, and energized enough to hike in the mountains at over 9000 ft elevation.
An Aya temple is generally laid out with single-bed mattresses on the floor in very close proximity to the other participants. The ceremony is held in the dark with only minimal illumination. Aya sharpens your senses, and so the room is dark to minimize overstimulation of the eyes.
The amount of Aya one takes is supervised by the Maestro, and the effects and amounts are reevaluated before every session. Aya is considered Feminine, and so Sacred Tobacco is provided as Masculine energy to balance the effects of the Aya. After drinking the medicine, the Maestros begin singing to the plant and to the participants. It is through these songs that much of the healing energy is transmitted.
I personally witnessed the very young woman next to me be healed of chronic back spasms. After being unsuccessfully treated by physicians all over Europe, her mother brought her to Peru in a desperate attempt to find healing for her daughter. I could physically hear the Aya working on her body. It was as if the Aya were tiny little invisible surgeons using ultra-sharp scalpels to make precision cuts to eliminate the cause of the spasms without damaging her spine. Her healing was powerful. And less you think I hallucinated the whole thing, I spoke with the woman who was on the other side of her, and she too could hear the workings of the Aya on this young woman’s spine.
While this was a physical healing, the majority of healing that takes place at an Ayahuasca retreat is in the mental/emotional/spiritual realm. People from all over the world come for Ayahuasca healing to remove the dark energy that is within them, eating away at the quality of their lives. People come to shed their drug/alcohol addictions and all of the demons that have taken residence within them through the window of addiction. Multiple people came to heal from all-consuming grief over the death of loved ones. There were young people who had been born into affluence but shipped off to schools to be raised by strangers instead of loving parents. Others had deeply buried wounds from sexual assault as children. One young man was sent from Australia by his psychiatrist as traditional psych treatments were ineffective.
Ayahuasca and other sacred hallucinogenic plants are currently making inroads into the medical community as effective healing medicine.
In the Sacred Valley, where I did my retreat, we spent our days in a beautiful lush garden on the shores of the Urubamba River that flows through the Sacred Valley on its way to Machu Picchu. Sitting in the Garden surrounded by lush flowering plants, we shared with each other our stories. Journaling and Yoga were encouraged, along with light hiking or relaxing in a hammock as we listened to the sound of the river. On non-Aya nights, we had hot cups of cacao, bonfires, and star gazing. At over 9000 feet, the stars were beautiful and, yes, very bright.
The real transformative work of Ayahuasca continues on. During that first year after Aya, my life changed for the better in every way. As a Yoga Meditation teacher, I became much more effective. As a Reiki Master, my abilities to access and interact with healing energy have profoundly improved. Now, here I am 18 months later, and I am working with the sacred plant of Cannabis, genetically searching out new strains of healthy vital Cannabis for your consumption and healing journey.
I hope you have been both informed and entertained by this little peak into Ayahuasca medicine for healing. Ayahuasca is a sacred plant. Ayahuasca is powerful medicine. Ayahuasca is on the cutting edge of true healing.
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Feature photo credit: Susan Fritz
GuruSue has 40+ years of experience on three continents using Eastern, Western, and Plant medicine to assist people in healing.