Before parting with my cash I made sure to choose a reputable outfit for my ayahuasca retreat.
I’d encourage anyone else who is considering taking the ancient hallucinogen to conduct their own research to that end.
Many South American countries have accessibility to the sprawling Amazon jungle where the raw ingredients for Ayahuasca (or Yage) are procured.
While in Cusco, Peru I noticed there were a number of companies offering this services hoping to capture curious visitors, primarily there to see the fabled Machu Picchu located nearby.
Here are 10 items to consider before making your choice.
- Cost. Please don’t let price be a factor in your selection. You get what you pay for and while one company may be much cheaper, corners are cut which is reflected in the quality of the service and the medicine provided.
- Location. Some retreat centres are easily accessed from towns, while others can be located quite close to the jungle itself which are harder to reach and could incur extra cost. Factor this into the overall cost as logistically you’ll need to organise in advance.
- Preparation. Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic brew and your body needs to be in a purified state to ingest it and receive the visions. Any reputable company will stress the importance of detoxing and purifying your body in the days leading up to the ceremony. Heed this warning. It will help enormously.
- Medical Assistance. There are some people that should not consider taking the hallucinogen and for that reason a medical health screening should be administered in advance. During the ceremony, a Nurse or Medical staff should be present to measure physical signs like blood pressure and ensure no adverse reaction to the medicine.
- Testimonials. The Centre should have a reputable website and testimonials section. Sadly, tourists die every year because dosages have been administered incorrectly from inexperienced ‘shaman’. These businesses often rebrand and change name, and it is CRUCIAL to do your homework in advance and reach out to ex-attendees if concerned. One such person contacted me a few weeks ago as I was a facebook fan of the Retreat Centre I used. I shared my own experiences as recorded on these blog posts (1, 2 and 3) which helped allay her fears.
- Setting. Exercise caution if the ceremony will be performed outside especially if there is no perimeter. Grisly cases have emerged where tourists have wandered off in their hallucinogenic haze, and drowned in shallow rivers or fallen down cliff sides. While it’s great to be connected to nature and in an outside setting in theory, in practice your safety should always come first.
- Group Size. You want smaller groups. Anything larger than 6 can be difficult to police and manage from a staff point of view. In the height of your trance state, ANYTHING can happen. People can get up and wonder around the room, start dancing, interacting with their environment. The staff’s job is to coax you safely back into your sleeping bag/bed and this is more difficult to do if there are too many people interfacing with their own visions.
- The Sales Pitch. Be wary of centres that promise a fun and exciting adventure, or those that glamorise the drug. It’s SERIOUSLY dangerous and should be treated as such. This isn’t a bunch of people smoking joints around the campfire cracking jokes. This is at times an incredibly raw, emotional and powerful experience that can be life changing.
- Respect. There is a strong emphasis on the ritual elements of the ceremony – offering thanks to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), vow of silence to conserve energy and build mental fortitude through meditation. Ayahuasca is thousands of years old and the traditions should be respected because of their incredible life changing qualities.
- Lodging and Food. This should be included in the package. The meal provided should be natural and healthy with an emphasis on smaller portions that can provide sustenance. Comfortable bedding is important for leisure time and providing relief after what is a very taxing experience.
I chose Etnikas for my own Ayahuasca experience and was very pleased with the service and attention which was delivered professionally.
The team there were able to answer all my questions in advance online, in person and helped prepare for me the gravity of the experience which admittedly I had been blasé about at the very beginning.
Post-Ceremony I was also given advice on how to use my learnings and incorporate them into my daily life ensuring an easy transition back to relative normality after the incredible experiences I’d had.
They have a great support team who were always helpful and exceeded my expectations.
Their website can be found here: www.etnikas.com