The Real Reasons Why We Drink Ayahausca

Over the last decade of working with the sacred medicines of the Americas, we’ve witnessed thousands of people’s healing experiences. When we talk to these folks about why they have come up from Medellin or flown in from another country to attend Ayahuasca or San Pedro Cactus ceremonies, the answers we get are varied and reflect the full spectrum of human experience, thought, and emotion.


Most participants have simply had enough; of their routine, of their lack of connection to themselves or others, of their inability to love, of their physical ailments, of their lack of clarity and direction, of the sense of stagnation that’s been permeating their homes, of their harmful habit energies, or of their narrative about themselves. Some people have a sincere desire to commune with spirit, or to know for themselves that there is a soul, something beyond and less ephemeral than this impermanent collection of bodily cells. And still other people come to us with the desire to heal traumas that limit their abilities to trust others, form relationships, love themselves, and feel.


These are valid reasons for coming to the medicines because they are heartfelt and sincere. However, we very rarely encounter individuals who have true clarity about the conditions that are necessary for the healing that they are seeking.


We want to be able to love others, but we don’t seek the self-acceptance and self-love that gives rise to universal, indivisible, inspirational love. We confuse our inherent ability to love all life with our subconscious desire to attach ourselves to another individual and depend on him or her for a sense of self-worth. When people come to the medicines seeking an ability to love and connect to their most intimate relations, they often underestimate the type of internal revolution that they will need to undergo to set the stage for the arising of love within them. They need to purge. They need to forgive. They need to reject models of thought and behavior that they were introduced to in their early childhoods. They need hit the reset button and be prepared to accept the teachings that arise from darkness, space and silence. They need to give up control.


We want to be free of the consequences of trauma, but we don’t talk about stilling the mind to appreciate the present moment. People come to drink Ayahuasca as themselves, meaning that they expect the healing of the traumas they carry to take place within the narrative that they’ve been carrying since the trauma occurred. They don’t come to the medicines asking for help to create a blank slate on which a new story, written in the present tense, can be written. They underestimate the importance of humbling themselves in order to forgive completely. Only then can they sit with themselves calmly in the present.


This may sound wishy-washy or like some hippy nonsense, but for as long as someone underestimates how much they depend on their attachment to their own suffering for their sense of self, they will not fully understand the challenge they face when they ask the medicines to heal them of trauma.


We want to be creative and less stagnant, and to have access to all of our potential. However, we’re lazy and undisciplined in our daily lives. We don’t want do the work of addressing and uprooting the deeply grooved habit energies that dictate how we respond to stimuli. We go to a San Pedro (Wachuma) ceremony or to an Ayahuasca (Yagé) ceremony seeking this creative spark, but as soon as the darkness and silence sets in and the medicine starts to flow, we don’t have the fortitude to stay attentive and observant. Instead, we invent a narrative that discredits the medicine or we bow out energetically and give in to a narrative that focuses on the nausea and discomfort that we feel. We give in to a sense of victimhood, and that story of ‘something bad is happening to me’ is the same story that blocks our potential in our daily lives.


How much then do we truly want to move on and live with passion? Are we humble enough to submit to the medicine and to let it show us the depths of our own cultural, social, and familial programming? This is the most difficult and most commonly overlooked work that most of our participants face: It is our responsibility to live better lives; we are responsible for our decisions, our health, our happiness, and our path in life.


Participants come to the sacred medicines seeking fulfillment, but we don’t meet a lot of people who are passionately seeking a life mission that gives purpose to their daily lives. Happiness is mentioned as something that comes and goes depending on external conditions; possessions, relationships, money, travel, etc. It is very rarely spoken of as an undercurrent of joy that is available when we free ourselves from deeply ingrained contradictions.


In the professional arena, most ceremony participants do something in their daily lives to pay the bills, and most are not doing what they love. They fear not being able to sustain a level of comfort that they’ve become accustomed to, and not having an acceptable response to the ubiquitous question ‘What do you do’? Are they ready to step into mission and passion in the professional realm? That’s a leap of faith that requires allowing the heart to lead the mind. When the heart leads the mind in all aspects of life, we are walking a conscious path.


Romantically, ECA retreat participants have sometimes committed to someone who they know they shouldn’t be with. Socially, they spend time engaging in groups and activities that are not enriching, that do not inspire them, and that lead them to subtle or overt forms of self-abuse. Within their families, communication has broken down and in some cases, masks are being worn to sustain habitual connections that are unhealthy.


If we want the medicines to lead us to sustained joy, we need to be open to rewriting the script and to putting ourselves in service of all of our relations so that our actions, thoughts, and words are harmonized with our values. When we come to the medicines, we need to be open to change.


We want to be connected, but we don’t seek silence to be able to hear and feel the pulses of our living relations all around us. We live intellectually, not intuitively. We project when we should be receiving. This need to have opinions and to project ourselves onto the screen of the world comes from deep-seeded insecurities and fears. When we ask Ayahuasca to help us connect to others, what we are really asking for is to be able to sit silently, give thanks for the beauty and blessing of life, and to be humble enough to know that we don’t know much.


Ask for humility so that you can say thank you to the water, earth, air, and fire that sustain all of life. Be grateful to your ancestors and know that your life was made possible by them. Then, when you’ve recognized that you’re surrounded by and comprised of the elements that make up all life and all life that came before you, you will feel connected. But ask for vulnerability, humility, gratitude, and the ability to tolerate silence and stillness. Ask for guidance for your heart so that you can walk a good path that honors what’s true for you and all of your relations.