Personal Experience

WTF, Ayahuasca?!

Often, too often nowadays, people expect ayahuasca to be some sort of magical potion, instantly reformatting them into a completely healed state. When this doesn’t happen, they feel resentful, even betrayed: “I did the work, I showed up—why did it do this to me?” This can easily segue into the very common plaint of individuals…

Mapacho: King of Plants

Ayahuasca use in the Amazon is embedded within a wider tradition of plant science called vegetalismo, and the most important and revered of all plants is tobacco—specifically, mapacho (Nicotiana rustica), a variety that is up to 26 times stronger than that used in commercial cigarettes. The ritual traditions surrounding mapacho are far more ancient than…

What Ayahuasca Has Taught Me

Entering my seventh year of relation with ayahausca, I’ve been musing on how it’s shaped me, and what I’ve learned. What I’ve learned not just in passing, but for keeps—teachings that have been permanently tattooed on my being through my personal work with the medicine, and also the whole excruciating, beautiful process of plant dieta…

Ancestors or Past Lives?

Ayahuasca leads us through subterranean memories, down into primal dungeons where we’ve locked away parts of ourselves. These are not just personal recollections, but the ancient, rejected secrets of our species (ayahuasca works with the species, not just the individual), which need to come into the light to be released. It’s not unusual to have…

On the Poison Path

Ayahuasca illuminates dark and light in equal measure, unleashing both terror and bliss, often in the same night, sometimes in the same breath. Ultimately, if you can open to whatever arises with a degree of equanimity and assimilate it over time, the practice can lead to a grounded wholeness that’s Tantric in its depth and…

We’re Not Made to Heal Alone

We humans need other humans—to call us on our stuff, to name our shadow. To see ourselves as we cannot. To initiate us into new paths and practices. And to support us through the rough ride that ayahuasca can bring, the retriggered trauma and angst-y feelings that can arise. Let’s take shadow work first. By…

Ceremony As Shitshow

A few weeks ago I sat through perhaps the most outrageous ayahuasca ceremony I’ve ever attended, a chaotic display of anarchy that was a true shitshow. Yes, chaos is a fundamental attribute of ayahuasca, and sometimes pure chaos is exhilarating. And my own experience that night was okay, even beautiful at times. But what I…

How Dieta Rewires Your Being

During my last half-dozen or so plant dietas, I’ve been experiencing a phenomenon I call ‘unfolding.’ It has something to do with the way my normal life, much of which is spent staring at a laptop screen, flattens my perception, collapsing my sense of dimensionality. Technically speaking, you might say I suffer from an overemphasis…

Ayahuasca Obfuscada

Work with Amazonian plantas maestras or teacher plants is almost always enlightening, but the process can be confusing, too. The language of plants is not exactly straightforward or clear-cut. They speak to us in non-verbal ways, through images and sensations that can be vague, diffuse, difficult to understand. Plant teachers move at a different pace…

Here are some details I might have wanted to know before my first cup of ayahuasca five years ago. (Despite the not-knowing, it’s all worked out perfectly okay.) 1. It can change your life, big time. And for the better, which is why a lot of people are turning to it. But the scale and…

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