Ever since my teens I’ve been fascinated by Atlantis, pyramids, crystals, ancient history and lost civilizations. Maybe most people are curious about these subjects but the person who’s done an exceptional job of exploring these topics is Graham Hancock. His work, 15+ books and 5 films, is rich in detail, with a keen sense of history and deep knowledge of ancient civilizations. He’s spent more time with his boots (or flippers) on the ground than any other writer/researcher, studying ancient civilizations.
Ironically this brilliant speech, which I’d previously heard and wasn’t new then, was recorded at a Ted Talk in the UK then some time after it was uploaded, they decided to remove it. Now, this compelling idea has had more exposure than the first time because of being censored by the esteemed think-tank Ted.com. Naturally a theory emerged that it was the Ted sponsors Johnny Walker and Pfizer Pharma that pulled the plug but that seems unlikely, especially for the whiskey brand however it’s unlikely we’ll ever know because the video is back online.
The War on Consciousness is such a great title, there’s so much truth, just in that title. Ultimately, it’s rather shameful for Ted, as the decision to remove Graham Hancock’s video was obviously related to money.
So You Want to Try Ayahuasca?
1. AYAHUASCA IS NOT FUN. It’s commonly and poignantly referred to as “The Purge”, which basically means that ayahuasca makes you puke and poop your brains out. It gets rid of EVERYTHING in there, and spares no shred of comfort in the process. I may have struggled with this part, but believe me — the purge eventually revealed itself in a very drawn out suffering. Whoever might approach this in a “recreational” fashion should definitely find new hobbies.
2. AYAHUASCA CAN BE SCARY. I had never tried a hallucinogenic before participating in ayahuasca cermonies, but from what I had heard from more experimental friends was that hallucinogenic drugs produce bright colors and fun visuals that make you giggle like a little kid. Ayahuasca is a much darker experience. Although it can produce bright colors and happy thoughts, it’s more likely to reveal darkness, as the point of the experience is to face your inner demons and to expel them. I heard some laughter in our hut, but I also heard a lot of suffering. It all proved to be productive suffering, but you have to prepare yourself for the possibility of feeling and seeings things that you’ve previously buried.
3. YOU ARE COMPLETELY ALONE IN THIS EXPERIENCE. You may seek comfort in those that surround you before the candle is blown out and the ceremony begins, but once you drink, you are on your own. You will find yourself in complete darkness, likely unable to make out the faces of those around you. Everyone will drift into their own world, and you will be in yours. Be prepared for this, and if you’re only doing it because your friends are doing it — then don’t.
4. YOU MAY NOT EXPERIENCE MUCH OF ANYTHING. People often enter ayayhuasca cermonies with grandiose ideas of epic hallucinations and spiritual awakenings. No matter how open you may feel, remember that Westerners are typically hard-wired to resist this type of physical and emotional vulnerability. It’s regularly effective for the indigenous people of Peru and Colombia, where the practice originated and where the ayahuasca vine can be found, because its ingrained in their culture. Your experience may be intense, or mild, or practically non-existent. But if your mind is open and you’re willing to try it more than once, you’ll likely get the desired effects eventually. Just don’t go into it with inflated expectations.
5. ONLY YOU CAN TELL IF THIS IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO. My friend in no way swayed my decision to try ayahuasca. It was a confusing decision, made easier by the idea of someone joining me to the retreat, but we both went with different motivations and our personal experiences leading up to the decision and during the experience were entirely our own.
In overhearing some backpackers discuss the idea of trying ayahuasca, I’ve noticed some peer pressure involved. Ayahuasca is by no means recreational or as I said before — fun. And again, its not something you do “with” anyone else. So decide for yourself and yourself alone if this is something you want to try. If anyone else has a say in your decision, your stomach will be very, very angry with you.
6. RESEARCH YOUR SHAMAN. TRUST YOUR SHAMAN. The popularity of ayahuasca has had some seriously negative effects on the industry surrounding the sacred practice. Unfortunately, the surge in ayahuasca tourism has led to scores of fake shamans, just looking to make a buck. Do your research before you put your well-being in the hands of a shaman. They the show during the ayahuasca ceremony and when you’re allowing yourself to become vulnerable under the effects of ayahuasca, you absolutely must trust the person in control.
Do you research, talk to plenty of people, and seek the highest recommendations. A large portion of tourists in Iquitos are there to do ayahuasca and everyone is talking about it, so it isn’t difficult to find people who have already participated in ceremonies and seek their advice. Consider this experience similar to going into surgery. You wouldn’t trust just anyone with a scalpel and you should NOT trust just anyone to administer ayahuasca.
7. NOTHING IN THE WORLD TASTES WORSE THAN AYAHUASCA, EXCEPT AYAHUASCA COMING BACK UP. Sorry for the visual, but its important to understand that the taste of ayahuasca is truly indescribable. I read somewhere that it tastes like blended toad, and I don’t think I can come up with anything closer. Many people struggle to keep it down, and most people eventually, puke it back up. It’s bad — really, really bad. But if you can handle it, the taste does fade and in the wake of that struggle can come some really amazing results.
It might not sound like it with all this talk of blockage and purging and struggle, but I’m glad I tried ayahuasca. It’s a deeply personal experience and it’s different for everyone, but I was able to take away some valuable insight at the conclusion of my retreat. If you choose to try ayahuasca, I wish you all the best in your journey. If you choose to forgo the experience, I encourage you to eat as much spice and sweets and meat as your heart desires and enjoy the natural beauty of the Amazon region — a magical place that can be a cleansing and healing experience in and of itself.