Welcome to the jungle

Written by Stuart Revnell No Gravatar

This is the last blog post for seven days or so, as today we fly to Puccalpa, in the Amazon jungle, for a week long retreat with Tierra Vida Healing centred upon three ayahuasca ceremonies.

I first heard of ayahuasca from a good friend last year. Also known as ‘vine of the soul’, ayahuasca is a potent brew made in the Amazon basin by combining two indigenous plants, a liana (Banisteriopsis caapi) and a shrub (Psychotria viridis). Participants drink it during ritualistic ceremonies run by shamans, and it is renowned for inducing an extremely visionary state of mind, during which participants can gain an insight into their subconscious, and potentially an understanding of how to effect significant positive change in their lives. How it works is not completely understood, but it is apparently non-addictive, with no side-effects beyond initial nausea. It is for this reason that ayahuasca has been used for centuries in South America for healing purposes.

I remember the conversation with my friend being extremely interesting, but we headed off on our travels, and it stayed tucked away in the ‘Worth Revisiting’ filing cabinet in my head. Then a few months ago, I read a book which purely by chance contained an account of an ayahuasca ceremony. It piqued my interest enough to start doing some online research, and I soon found out that Peru is is the spiritual home of these ceremonies.

There’s a great deal of literature written about ayahuasca, and many online forums with discussions about people’s experiences.

Each person’s experience is unique to them, but a big part of it is about purging the mind and the body, and so shortly after drinking it, most participants apparently violently throw up. An extremely intense journey into the subconscious may then follow. For some, the experience is beautiful, but most people have baggage lurking in there somewhere, and depending on what that is, it can be terrifying too, as the ayahuasca forces them to confront their deepest fears and insecurities – often represented by demons, snakes and the like.

The results, however, can be transformational. Participants speak of feeling purged and free, renewed and energised, of having experienced states of expanded consciousness, different dimensions of existence, and a huge sense of connection with all living things around them.

We met a man in Chile recently who had participated in several ceremonies with his girlfriend, and told us a story about an experience which he had undergone some years ago and which he had no recollection of – during his journey, it was played back to him in perfect detail, and as a result, he felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Online, there’s also an account by a journalist in National Geographic who participated in several ceremonies, and attested to the fact that her lifelong depression had been lifted as a result. Other accounts range from people who were able to kick cigarette smoking through to those who felt that their creativity had been enhanced and reinforced by the experience, and approached their passions with new found energy and motivation.

So far, so good – you take something, have a hallucinogenic experience, then experience enlightenment. As Jane’s mother said, “In my day they used to call it LSD”. I’ve never taken LSD, so I have nothing to compare this with, and I don’t know what the technical differences are. But from what I understand, whilst the two compounds share some chemical similarities, ayahuasca is most certainly not recommended as a recreational drug. It has been used for healing purposes by shamans for centuries, and, despite an explosion in ‘ayahuasca tourism’ in recent years, the reputable shamans and retreats emphasise the healing aspect of the brew, and urge you to treat the ‘medicine’ with huge respect.

So why am I doing this?

I’m neither religious nor particularly ‘spiritual’, but I don’t believe for a moment that the world we normally perceive is all there is, and I certainly subscribe to the view that there are different levels of consciousness and awareness to be reached. I also believe that nature offers us ways of doing this, via compounds such as those found in ayahuasca.

For me, to have the ability to open up a channel to my subconscious, and to gain a deeper understanding of myself, and the factors influencing my behaviours and decisions, is an incredible privilege. To then potentially be able to purge my mind of negative residual elements is an opportunity I find too fascinating and powerful to overlook.

Now feels like an opportune moment to have such an experience. I’ve shifted my lifestyle for six months, and extricated myself from long-held routines and constraints (for me, possessions, administration, bills, home maintenance, commuting and so on) which were taking up an inordinate amount of my time, making it difficult to focus on creating the correct conditions to achieve a balanced and fulfilled existence.

Another shift is imminent too when we get back, when I move down to Bath for a year to study song writing. Having left the UK with some doubts about whether this was the right thing to do, almost six months on the road, free of the aforementioned routines and constraints, has made me realise that instinct was correct, and that this is the right path.

So quite simply, now feels like a great time to build upon that positive, optimistic frame of mind, and to have an experience which allows me to hopefully understand and purge any negative elements which could affect it.

That’s what I’m hoping for at least – let’s see what happens.

Over and out for a week – in the words of Guns ‘n’ Roses, “Welcome to the jungle.”

One Response to “Welcome to the jungle”

  1. DanielNo Gravatar says:

    Enjoy or whatever is the most appropriate response to what sounds like an awesome adventure – needless to say very envious and I hope it doesn’t reveal too many deep seated unease about by abilities to keep your kitchen top dry. Lets hope it doesnt all end up like the scene at the end of Conan with James Earl Jones. Peace out xx

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