Ayahuasca is spreading around the globe with astonishing rapidity. Increasing numbers of people are turning to it as a treatment of last resort, seeking a remedy for depression, anxiety, and trauma. Even more are searching for a spiritual catalyst, an emotional reboot from the meaninglessness that marks these alienated times.
Sometimes, they find it. Ayahuasca can wipe the slate clean, offering a new start. This does not occur without difficulty, nor in a single session—but the possibility of someone getting to the source of the problem and pulling it up by the very root exceeds the potential of many conventional psychological treatments.
Ayahuasca starts from the bottom up, the literal gut level of vomit and shit, delivering experiential knowledge in a way that is utterly and viscerally convincing. It covers all the bases of human experience, unleashing Hell and Heaven within a single session. By freeing the mind from old conditioning, it grants access to a new reality. Often this is nothing more than the simple truth, revealed in a way that newly makes sense. The clarity and meaning that can emerge from ceremony have immense healing power.
Ayahuasca is an extraordinary healing substance that interacts with our individual psyche, unzipping the barriers that seal off the unconscious/subconscious to reveal what’s beneath. In my personal and professional experience, it’s unique in the way it can catalyze personal evolution. This tailor-made interactive effect is one reason why ayahuasca is referred to as a medicine, not a drug—ingested not to produce a specific reaction (results vary wildly from session to session, even with the same person), but to treat a disease.
Ayahuasca is a connector, triggering an extraordinarily dynamic healing process that is capable of bridging a multitude of gaps.
The disorders it addresses are not necessarily diagnosed, or even diagnosable: show me the DSM-V codes for contemporary alienation, confusion, and meaninglessness. These are woven into the fabric of our modern world to the extent that they seem natural, an inevitable part of being human. But they’re not. It’s not natural for a human to be chronically stressed, anxious or depressed, locked up in the head and disconnected from the body, not knowing what s/he feels, struggling to control reality in order to survive, and in this process, digging the hole ever deeper.
I believe that ayahuasca (and plant medicines in general) can offer a reset for these situations, reconnecting us with our natural state of balanced wholeness, or at least pointing us in that direction.
Ayahausca as Connector
Ayahuasca is a connector, triggering an extraordinarily dynamic healing process that is capable of bridging a multitude of gaps. Start with the divide between right and left brain. Then there’s the gap between mind and heart, brain and body. The split between conscious and unconscious material, created in part by trauma and manifesting in Shadow. The divide between masculine and feminine. Between subject and object. Between human and Divine. And finally, the wound unique to our modern age, the separation of humans from the natural world. There are countless reports from ayahuasca ceremonies of people seeing the pain the Earth is suffering, and feeling their hearts awaken in compassionate response. We’re being initiated into what it means to be truly human, introduced to our role as caretakers and conscious creators rather than exploiters.
Ayahuasca bridges these divides, leading us to a vision of unity and a new understanding of what is right relationship with the Earth and all life. Some suggest it’s the spirit of Nature, Gaia, Pachamama herself, communicating through the plant to inform us of our enlightened potential. It’s as if we’re being shown an upgraded Garden of Eden, Eden 2.0—the one we regain access to after wandering for too long in exile, returning wiser and more humble for our close brush with extinction, and determined now to do it right.
Powerful Teachings for Intense Times
These are critical times, no doubt about that, and many of us sense that radical means are needed to trigger the level of transformation required for humans to survive as a species. The Vajrayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism says that the most potent teachings emerge in the most difficult times, blazing forth ‘like wildfire’ with the light of transformation. Intense times evoke extreme teachings.
Ayahuasca, along with other visionary plant medicines, is one of these radically transformative teachers. The rise of plant medicine in the West is just this kind of powerful teaching, emerging in the moment it is most needed. Ayahuasca, huachuma, iboga and peyote are joining chemical entheogens like DMT and MDMA to wake us up, instigating what we so urgently need at this moment: reconnection with body, spirit, emotion, and the planet.
Consciousness is the transformative secret agent that can really change things in our world.
Ayahuasca and other plants have a remarkable capacity to bring us to maturity. They instigate deep emotional and spiritual work, triggering our capacity to ripen into responsible, spiritual human beings, grown up and growing down.
The Alchemy of Consciousness
As a consciousness-inducing agent, ayahuasca has few rivals. It will inspire you and kick your ass, lift you to new heights and challenge you to clean up your act, all in a single session. To my mind this fits the definition of “skillful means” spoken of in the Vajrayana teachings: tukje natsok, compassion manifesting in whatever form is necessary.
What it delivers is not just “psychotherapy on steroids” or “10 years of therapy in a single night” (clichés with a nugget of truth at their core). Ayahuasca’s bigger message calls us to a more expanded level of Soul, collective as well as individual. It’s a wake-up call for us as a species, an evolutionary opportunity for humans around this increasingly connected globe. Ultimately, it’s about recognizing our own divinity, our capacity to create heaven on earth, here and now. The plants are waking us up to this, because this is the urgent call of these times.
And to whatever extent this will happen, it will occur not just through drinking more ayahuasca. It’s the interaction of plant spirit with human consciousness, and the alchemical transformation that occurs when the two meet, that makes the difference. Plant, person, and intention, all integrating into wisdom—these are the ingredients in the mix. Peruvian ayahuasquero Alonso del Rio, who’s been working with the medicine for nearly 40 years, says, “The most important thing I learned in this whole process is that the true medicine, that which heals everything, for me is actually the development of consciousness.” He adds:
“I think the main illusion in the Western world is to think that shamanism and the use of medicine plants is something like a magic formula to increase the development of consciousness. But we are actually at the beginning of a new dimension where the use of master plants only works synergistically together with our own work to develop consciousness.”
Ayahuasca “works synergistically together with our own work.” It’s easy to go to ceremony and drink more. What’s the work we’re doing with it? It’s not just the substance itself, but its interaction with our consciousness that counts. This is the work of integration.
In this sense, the medicine for these times is not just ayahuasca. It’s consciousness, the growth and development of consciousness, that’s the transformative secret agent that can really change things in our world.