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~Overview of an Ayahuasca Ceremony~




       The day of the ceremony can be filled with many emotions. Ranging from excitement to inexhaustible lists of reasons you probably can’t drink tonight, the day of the ceremony is when the medicine really starts working ahead on you, preparing you to receive more fully that night. So remember to stay calm as you boldly go into whatever is coming up for you in each moment.

       It is a good day to be as minimal and as quiet as possible. Try for an extra few minutes to stretch or take a walk.  Doing some journaling or music making is a great idea. Remembering highlights of your life, and putting meditation into your intentions for the evening are time well spent. 

       We advise to eat a nice robust amount of breakfast and lunch, so you are fortified to endure and greet the ceremony with the most energy possible. It is imperative not to eat after 3pm at the very latest. Please stay hydrated and continue to drink fluids after 3pm, just no solids. Water and juice is great.

       Bring pure water (no essential oils or anything in the water), a sweater or wrap, socks, potentially a flashlight and any personal object of value (a crystal) to the ceremony when you are ready. Please come to your seat about 30-45 minutes before the ceremony to settle in and meditate more strongly on your intentions for the night.

Ceremonies typically start around 8-9 pm, or at dark, usually whichever is last as total darkness is preferred.  Depending on if the curandera has given any introductory talk before the ceremony or not, there is sometimes a “brief overview” of what to expect at about 8pm for new participants, and as a welcome reminder even to the most experienced as to the basics of ceremony, the curandera’s particular format for the evening, logistics of the physical space (where the bathroom is, who the assistants are, etc.), and more, as well as a final time for questions. 

The ceremony, once commenced, will last from 4-8 hours, with most ranging more in the 6 hour range, depending on the strength of the medicine, the amount of healing needed, the alignment of the stars and cycle of the moon, and the type of intention being held individually and collectively by the group.  Once you are in, you are in. No one leaves until everyone is done. No one who wasn’t there for the opening prayer may ever come after the ceremony is started.  You’re in, or you’re out.



     Once the opening prayers and protection rituals including the curandera blessing and singing icaros to the medicine are done the medicine will be served.  It takes usually as short as 10 minutes, but commonly about 30 minutes or longer for the medicine to set in.  Until then one feels completely normal.  It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to get fully under the influence of the medicine, depending on your energy and the intention, etc..  As it starts to set in the curandera starts singing, asking the medicine to enter into the ceremony and heal the group.  Then songs (called icaros) are sung from ancient codes and frequencies in a spontaneous song with words and directions inspired by you and the medicine and the healing your being requires and various instruments played by the curanderas from here on out, for the entire ceremony, up to many hours continually.   Around 1-2 hours into the ceremony the facilitator will offer second cups and you may approach them to ask for more medicine, which will be served at about a ¼ or ½ cup depending on their personality.  Each will have their own preferences as to how much and how often they serve throughout the night.  In some circles the facilitator may come to you or ask you to come up for more if they feel you could use it. This goes on as needed throughout the night until about an hour before the facilitator feels the ceremony will be closing.

People will be getting well (vomiting), sweating, shaking, crying, vibrating/shaking, going to take bathroom breaks, sitting upright totally still, laying down, getting worked on by the curandera, etc..  We collectively practice to attain centered attention throughout the night, and we each go through portals and openings of healing that lead us into more somatic experiences as well.

     Shamans will come around and do work on each person, as needed.  This is when you get to experience that healer’s true art through icaro primarily and many other supporting tools (perfumes, massage, pan pipes in your forehead, tuning forks, feather wands, crystal healing, etc.) and where the most personalized healing takes place, generally. Sometimes, nearing the end of the ceremony, the curandera will call on experienced participants who want to share a song of their own (who is also capable to do this well).  Then the curandera usually assesses each person to make sure they are “back” and blesses and protects them, with a modality specific to each curandera (tobacco soplada, aroma cleansing, cranial massage, etc.).  There is typically a closing prayer or song which is a prayer. 



     After the closing, people may either return to their sleeping quarters or stay quietly in meditation in the ceremonial space, and there is always some light small talk about the night and how it all went.  Generally some people are very tired and are left there in peace (an assistant or curandera will also sleep in the space to ensure spiritual protection and in case of them needing help throughout the night).  Likewise, others are “wired” and may go to another space, hammock hut, or even in the ceremonial space if allowed to have light talk and perhaps tea.  Although common in some ceremonies, traditionally no food but water was had until the next morning, when the group makes a communal meal to celebrate daily rebirth and the fact that indeed, one is still very much alive!  

     Many times, either right after the ceremony, while all are still present (and in this case everyone is awakened, no matter how deeply asleep), or the next morning after breakfast, there is a check-in circle of some degree.  The check-in is very important as the ceremony gives one a lot of pieces. It will take time to put them together into a meaning sometimes.  Hearing others’ experiences can deepen and enlighten your own personal journey’s meaning. 

Remember that what is seen in the ceremony is just the vision, the real ceremony is learning to live it in your daily life. Otherwise the vision is wasted on ego.  It will take weeks, months, and even years, to understand any one ceremony you have experienced, as what you see and learn there will unfold further into the future than you can imagine.  It is best to say as little as possible about the ceremony right after it, and instead allow more of your experience to clarify and culminate before trying to express what really can not yet be synthesized or understood.  Similarly, it is common for people to have very very clear visions or answers to their question or intention, and it is easy to concisely verbally tell of their journey.  Both ways are typical, but in either case, don’t get your chickens ahead of your eggs, so to speak.  Sleeping on it, and feeling into what it all means in the morning and weeks to come is highly advised. 



     After the retreat it is important to remember to take care of oneself.  Maintaining the diet and positive thinking and habits will help the truths soak in on deeper levels.  Creating plenty of quiet and reflective time will be a great tool in self understanding.  This is your time to shed fully your old self and start walking in the new. There will be an outift in your closet when you get home of your old favorite clothes from before the retreat. You will probably try them on, but you'll find that they just don't fit anymore. Take them immediately to donation, and shine in your new style! Be gentle and treat yourself kindly as you are remembering yourself and learning more deeply who you are becoming.  Yourself and others may be amazed by the changes you are ready to make immediately in your life, and finding positive support for this really helps!  Sharing with others from the group, or that have had similar experiences before will also make continued healing expedited, and provide a great release for the continual healings that arise after the retreat itself.

     Remember that this is a ceremony, and like anything of sacred value, it is to be kept highly consecrated.  To keep this work sacred and protected for all, we must remember to maintain it as truly sacred. Treating this work in such a fashion will make a clear distinction in your life as the meaning and importance of these ways. 


Cushi Joi! May your journeys always be blessed!



~Ground Rules & Best Practices~

  • Start with prayer. Prayer is a good place to go.

  • Ask for help at any point that you need anything for any reason. Say “Help” or the name of the facilitator or helper you’d like to come for you. In the maloka we ask that you knock on the floor and we will come find you. It is easier than talking and less disruptive to others. You may ask the helper to fill your water, take off your socks, bring you a blanket, get you a tissue, help you to the bathroom, hold your hand, etc. Anything. It is a helpers delight to serve you in any way. Use them. Please do not spend your night in agony by not asking for help. No moment is too beautiful to not just say “help” right over the whole thing. 

  • No one outside the ceremony can help you. Do not attempt to call anyone or go anywhere beyond the designated area, until the ceremony is completely closed by the final prayer

  • Do not have or look at any electronic devices, or track the time.

  • No recording unless approved by the facilitator first.

  • No talking out loud.

  • No touching anyone for any reason if they are not a facilitator or a curandera.

  • No pounding on the ground or body.

Avoid direct contact with anyone if they are not a helper or facilitator. Try to make direct eye contact with the facilitator when they are speaking to you.


  • Seating: Stay in your seat except to go to bathroom. Stretching at your seating area is good. Dancing in the middle of the room is good – eyes open, soft feet, stay away from dancing right over someone laying down deep in their process. Return to your seat after a reasonable amount of time.


  • Eyes: Keep your eyes closed. Focus as little as possible on anything going on in the room, and as much as possible to what is going on inside yourself.  Even if someone is having a very dramatic experience, you must trust that they are taken care of, and allow yourself to drop into your own journey. The facilitators will be watching and helping that person in the best ways at the perfect time, even if you are sure they are dying and no one is helping them. They likely are totally fine.


  • Water: Sip water. Try to limit water intake within 15 minutes before and up to 1 hr into the ceremony to as little as possible or none. Water in this timeframe will likely dilute the first cup.  Chugging at any point is likely to lead to headaches and nausea.  Little sips throughout the night is best. The less water the better for the work, most important is taking care of your body and staying hydrated.  You will appreciate yourself for bringing a non-glass, quietly opening water bottle.


  • Bathroom: Do not use the regular lights.  If you are in the bathroom for a long time do not be surprised if a helper comes knocking to see if you are alright. Do not camp in the bathroom, as nothing in there can help you, and much can distract you from your real work. 


  • Lights: Lighters and flashlights: Best to not use either at all. Please do not smoke or combust anything at any point without asking a facilitator first. If you truly have lost something around your seat then ask a helper to assist you with their light. 


  • Clothing: have an extra top layer and or a blanket. The medicine can fluctuate temperatures, having you sweating hot one minute and freezing the next.  This is a great detox, but be ready by bringing some layers, socks, and light hat.  The more your attire can be all white, and eventually dedicated to ceremony, the better.  The lighter colors attract the light energy to you. And it is most practical when working in the dark.


  • Music: if you are skilled at singing or an instrument you may let the facilitator know and they will ask you to play or sing when the time is right. Please do not start singing or playing your own song at any point until asked to do so by the facilitator. Unless you are a facilitator coming as a guest from somehwere else, it is not normal for any participants to sing at any point.


  • Singing: the body is building and exercising its energy once we have drank the sacrament.  There is a force that will build inside.  There are many ways to let off this energy, if it feels it is growing too much. It can be too big to contain whether its fear or bliss, or everything in between.  The physical purges are one way that the body lets off extra pressure.  Singing is also very effective at letting off pressure.  However, deep inside each of us is the internal release valve. And this is in our hearts.  Only if enough pressure is built up will it be able to release. It takes more pressure than needed for a physical purge. So first you are likely to experience physical purging (even over many ceremonies) until your body has hit new platforms with the physical purge. Once you can control your purge (sort of like control an orgasm) you can go to more pressure and not trip the purge switch. Then you can use the pressure to leverage open the heart release valve.   And the medicine and your protecting Spirit guides, known and unknown, will be helping you, be sure.  And so the point is that, in the long run, NOT singing will help you train to hold the pressure, for the glory of opening up the heart valve and creating a door where all the old may wash away, being then recycled within to make the ambrosia of your souls’ highest medicine – the medicine of your own highest self.   This being said, if you do sing, keep it at a volume far under the song leader, and when you can keep it in again, go back within.  As the owl says, the Less you say the more you learn. The more you learn the more you know. The more you know the less you say.  Generally, it is best to let just the facilitator sing at the beginning. As the songs turn to more celebratory toward the end of the night, and peoples journeys are coming to an end, singing is more acceptable - it can certainly be exceptional to feel your voice sing along, when an appropriate chance arises.


  • Second cups: to receive seconds or thirds, etc. approach the altar. Depending on the facilitator, it is best to make eye contact and then bow to the altar/medicine/facilitator. This will let them know that you are conscious and ready to receive your next cup.  They will dose you depending on what they see necessary.  If you are not feeling anything at all make sure to lean up and mention it before they pour your cup, as it may influence the dose and the facilitator will want to know this information in general, for your own good.  A good facilitator will be able to help attract the spirit of the medicine closer to you so you can feel the force more strongly.  It is also true that we each get exactly what we need and some nights are just going to be gentler than others. Remember those nights on the super intense ones!


  • Aromas: while the facilitator will likely be using different incenses, perfumes, and agua floridas (flower scented waters), please do not wear other strong scents into ceremony unless they are palo santo, copal, or frankincense.  This is both for the energy of the circle, as well as for the comfort of everyone in attendance.


  • Altars: Adornments for the altar are always welcome. The facilitator uses their altar as a tool shelf, and is usually protective of the space as their own, for their consecrated tools.  If you wish to make an offering please give it to the facilitator, explaining what it is (crystal, flowers, etc.) and they will either place it in a public place or on the main altar.  It is not advisable to pick up or even touch anything on the main altar of any shaman unless they hand it to you first. Some items are not meant to be touch except only during ceremony and non consecrated work will diminish their resilience without a cleansing ritual.  Facilitators may hand you an object from the altar during your ceremony if they feel you need its medicine. You may keep this until you feel complete, or the end of the ceremony, or even the next morning. But it is important that as soon as you are not holding it with intent to return it to the facilitator or leave at the head of the altar for them to return to its place.


  • Personal Altars: It is recommended to bring a spiritual object or a few to charge. You may wish to make a small altar of them beside or in front of you, depending on space.  It is great to have a crystal or similar object that you can hold in your regular life, that has gone through ceremony with you.


  • How to receive a Soplada: Soplar is Spanish for “to blow, to blow over, across, into, etc..” A soplada is when the facilitator uses tobacco to protect and purify the person’s full energetic body. Also to bless it.  The soplada is employed at the facilitator’s discretion, or by request of a participant.  It can be the tipping point to help you induce a deeper level of healing. Alternately, the facilitator may use it to help focus and ground you toward the end of a healing that has just occurred. Tobacco has many uses and the facilitator may do one or a sequence of techniques with the tobacco with you, as needed.  They may leave you exactly as you are, or ask you to sit up, lie down etc.  It is common for the tobacco to be blown down the back and into the chest. Usually the curandera will want to get between your shirt and body to get the smoke right onto the skin. Don’t be alarmed if they are lifting your shirt collar to do this. If you are wearing a necklace, earrings, glasses, or other jewelry the shaman will be careful to respect and not damage it.  Keep your eyes closed and focus on the energy the tobacco is giving you.  Feel the energy move in your body.  It is possible that near the end of the soplada the curandera will give you body language instructing you to put your hands into a prayer position and hold your arms in front of you as they blow the protective smoke over and around your body. 


  • Receiving a Healing: If approached by the facilitator to offer a healing, you may always say its not a good time by crossing your arms or bowing. Generally words are not needed. If you are especially ready for it, opening your arms up and expanding your chest into the work will let them see that you are ready to receive.  If you are needing work, you may always ask for help verbally and then request it when someone comes to whisper with you about what help you need. Alternately you may simply lie down in the middle of the room and the facilitator will take that as “Please come help me.”



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