Post-Ceremony Integration and Walking a Sacred Path
We all have our own reasons to seek and experience Ayahuasca and the other sacred medicines of the Americas. We want to overcome trauma, free ourselves from illusion, explore our spirits, heal ailments and disease, or maybe reignite our lives after a period of stagnation. At the Eagle Condor Alliance we feel that these plants have been left on Mother Earth to heal and to teach us how to live with health, wisdom, purpose, and love. Towards that end, Ayahuasca (Yagé), San Pedro Cactus (Huachuma / Awakoya), and the other sacred medicines provide information and insights into the root causes of our emotional patterns, thoughts, physical condition, and spiritual health.
The most common and perhaps the most important question that we receive from retreat participants is how their experiences with the medicines can inform their daily lives when they get home.
To approach that topic, let’s start with the understanding that Ayahuasca and the other sacred medicines are brutally honest. If you are consciously or subconsciously harboring imbalances within yourself, the medicine will do what it needs to do to help create that balance. In other words, if you are not honest with yourself about how you’re living, if you are not taking care of yourself, or if you’re not walking the path that your heart is encouraging you to walk, Ayahuasca will hold up a mirror and make you look at your self-deception. This form of teaching is direct and the message and implication for the student’s life is usually apparent.
But Ayahuasca and San Pedro Cactus can also provide moments and nights of healing that are more difficult for us to make sense of. After nights like those, we leave the maloka, go back to our home or retreat house, and ask ourselves; ‘what just happened to me’? In those situations, the medicine is primarily working on our spiritual and subtle energetic bodies. In extreme cases our spirit has to leave this dimension to encounter the healing it needs. Our egos are usually uncomfortable with this process and we are not meant to be able to trace the entire process in hindsight. We might remember glimpses of visions or some of the physical sensations we felt, but we are unable to mentally or rationally recall the night in a way that reassures us that we had a beneficial experience.
In these situations our trust in the medicine and our confidence that the medicine always gives us what need – no more and no less – is tested. We run into the ego’s need for control and the mind’s need for a believable, coherent, or linear script to recite to itself afterwards. If we can relax, trust, and be patient, the teachings of these nights of profound healing will become increasingly accessible to our intuition and heart centers. It is often these experiences that eventually inform our daily lives the most.
There are many other potential ‘categories’ of nights of healing that we may receive from Ayahuasca and the other sacred medicines of the Americas, but regardless of how we feel about what we experience or what the medicines’ messages were for us, the principles that guide the successful incorporation of these experiences into daily life are the same. They are the same for someone who is an artist from New York City as they are for someone who is an office worker from Tokyo.
The foundational and guiding principle of the process of activating the teachings from ceremony is that life is a gift. Each present moment is a gift that we should give thanks for. The medicines restore and highlight this truth for us. Be grateful for your glass of water in the morning, for the air you breathe, for your ancestors and parents who brought you into existence, for your children or future children, for the food on your table, for the roof over your head, for your health, for your fingers and toes, for your struggles, and always know that there are more and even infinite aspects and elements of life to be thankful for. The so-called ‘integration process’ starts there, with that realization.
I say so-called because more often than not, participants approach the medicines subconsciously entertaining a form of cognitive dissonance that makes it possible for them to believe that, for example, they are children of Mother Earth here in Colombia and isolated beings in San Francisco, or that they can take a moment to have gratitude for the rising sun on a Tuesday morning in Colombia, but in Stockholm they’ll just have a cup of coffee and go to work. That illusory division of worlds, of the ceremony from daily life, is where most people go awry. If we can see our lives before ceremony, our experiences with the medicines, and our lives afterwards as one continuous stream of moments to be grateful for, we will see the realignments that have to happen at home as being organic and self-produced, and not as impositions from a separate world or separate self.
As we carry the momentum from ceremony forward, we have to be willing and excited to make the changes that the medicines encourage us to make. If, for example, we do not love our partner, girlfriend, or husband, we need to make a change in the direction of sincerity and truth. If we are working in a capacity that does not align with or is contrary to our values, we need to change our profession in the direction of integrity. If we know that we should be using our talents and energy to support a meaningful and worth cause, and we are not currently doing that, we need to make a change in the direction of service. If we are not taking care of bodies through diet and exercise, or if we abuse substances, we need to make a change in the direction of self-love and respect for our bodies.
Every true insight that we activate and manifest provides us with another crucial degree of self-respect, and those decisions build on each other as mountain streams feed a river.
The type of transformation that these changes imply is difficult but rewarding, just as an Ayahuasca ceremony can be terrifying but beautiful. It’s a journey of discovery, trust in the unknown, humility, forgiveness, and of celebration. There are peaks and valleys, and we need to establish disciplined routines to maintain clarity and equilibrium at the best of times and at the worst of times. Those routines allow the voice of the medicine to remain audible and present inside of us. And that’s where responsibility comes into play.
We have a tendency to not take responsibility for our internal, social, familial and professional lives. We blame external factors for falling short of our best selves. I would do or be healthier, more vibrant, happier, etc., if I had more money, a more supportive partner, a more understanding boss, or a more empathetic and compassionate friend. If only that external condition would change, I’d be that person that I know I can be. That’s the easy way out and it leads to continued frustration and a lack of self-worth.
We all have supposedly valid reasons for varying degrees of degrading, critical, and unproductive emotions, thoughts, and actions, but we are the only ones responsible for those emotions, thoughts, and actions. We have the power and responsibility to convert them into the positive energy that reflects the essential truths that the medicines allow us to understand. If we don’t meet that challenge, we will continue to suffer needlessly.
That responsibility to manifest the teachings of Ayahuasca and the other sacred medicines and wisdoms in daily life plays out in the smallest, seemingly insignificant moments, as well as in the larger shifts that we may need to implement. We are responsible for the look in our eyes when we receive a cup of coffee from the barista at our favorite cafe. And we are equally responsible for the thoughts that we have as we prepare a salad for our family’s dinner or lunch. In the same way, we have the power to drive our cars calmly and to emit a sense of shared humanity to the woman standing in front of us in line at the supermarket. If we are fortunate enough to go out for dinner at a restaurant, we can make that waitress or waiter feel valued and appreciated, or we can make him or her feel inferior and worthless.
If the medicine showed you that we are all one, that you carry the universe inside of you, and that you are connected with the trees, animals, flowers, birds, and bees, how are you going to treat your neighbor, greet your colleague, or look at your spouse on a Tuesday afternoon or Saturday morning?
Walking a sacred path, a path of integrity, passion, and wisdom, implies honesty and transparency with yourself first and foremost. Be honest, follow your heart, and make the changes that need to be made. Simplify and give thanks; that’s the beautiful challenge that awaits all of us in each present moment. If you follow these principles in the way that’s true for you, you will not only heal yourself but become a leader and a source of strength, wisdom, clarity and love for your family and for your community.