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My emotional self is apprehensive about the intensity of what is to come, but I am in Peaceful Warrior mode, using my power to choose and to Do in order to gain information and power. Not power over others, but power over my own self-limitations and self-deceptions. The sacred space of this place and the ritual of the pacing, activities, and food have been very helpful to calm me and let me focus on the work. This will not be easy. It may be very difficult at times. This is part of the medicine and the work that is to be done.”



Those who come to work seriously with Ayahuasca over a long period of time will engage in several different special diet sessions lasting days to a week or more. In each of these sessions, they will work with and ingest only one specific plant to learn its spirit and to internalize (literally and figuratively) its powers and effects in their body and person. These diets can be difficult and are not for everyone, but they are enlightening and useful for those who take them. Those who wish to become shamans work with these diets literally for years before becoming adept at their healing and visionary work.

For those who come to work with Ayahuasca for the first time or for occasional ceremonies, diet is still an important part of the experience, but it is not such an imposing trial as the dedicated diets are. There are differing opinions, usually based in long standing traditional views of the tribal and mestizo shamans, about the specifics of the required diet and its duration, but I have come to understand certain things about it.

There are two fundamental concerns in dieting prior to an Ayahuasca ceremony. First is the necessity of avoiding any chemicals in one’s system that might interfere with the chemical reactions of the medicine. Physically, Ayahuasca is a very safe substance. However, it is a mild MAO inhibitor and serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, and the partaker must avoid anything that will over-potentiate the medicine, which can cause a hypertensive reaction. Certain foods are problematic in this way and must be avoided for at least two to three days before ceremony and for as long after the last ceremony. These include pork, salt, sugars, spices and hot chilies, alcohol, and oil. Pork and lard, in particular, are problematic and many advise avoiding all pork products for as much as two weeks prior to and after working with Ayahuasca.

During our Ayahuasca retreat, food is actually plentiful and attractive, including fish, some chicken, grains, vegetables, eggs, honey, and lots of wonderful jungle fruit! All this food is taken from the bounty of the great forest and is fresh and very good for you!

Also a part of the “diet” is abstinence from sexual stimulation, which conserves one’s vital energy and heightens receptivity to the profound spiritual dimensions of the medicine.

Certainly, any MAOI medicines (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.) being taken must be carefully (with a doctor’s guidance) discontinued for some weeks prior to working with Ayahuasca.



All shamans I have worked with or whom I have read about, without exception, emphasize the importance of intent in working with Ayahuasca. Howard Lawler refers to it as “the most important personal factor in work with Ayahuasca.”

The Spirit that lives in Ayahuasca is itself intent on working with and teaching humans who come to her. That means that she will respond to how we approach her. If we come to the medicine without physical preparation (diet), we will have to deal with difficult purging to cleanse our bodies before any other work can be done. If we come with flippant or disrespectful mental intentions, like wanting merely to have a recreational “trip” or assuming the experience is going to be some kind of primitive show, then the medicine will likely present the patient with difficulties they did not anticipate. It may take them very deep into their own psyche when they were expecting shallowness. It may find their true fears and weaknesses and force them to face them fully and right now – a spiritual purging.

If we understand this, we can prepare for it by following the diet and coming into ceremony with well thought-through intentions for the night. These are simply things we wish to work on, or information or experiences we wish to gain from the medicine. Ayahuasca is essentially unpredictable. One never really knows what will likely happen in any particular ceremony. Ayahuasca never acquiesces to our demands, but if we come to it with strong and valid intentions, very powerful results can and often do occur.


A fellow participant focuses on his intentions toward the experience to come, blessing the leaves and the vine as it is prepared.


The final Ayahuasca 'tea' after it has been cooked, concentrated, poured off, and cooled.


"Personal Power" - Digital artwork by David P. Crews. ____________ ©2013 David P. Crews - CrewsCreative


So called “trip reports” can be interesting and useful, but are by nature factors of intensity lower for the reader than for the reporter. I present my three such reports here for several reasons. First, to give some idea of a real Ayahuasca vision session as it happened to someone who came to it for the first time. Second, to illustrate the dynamic range and variety of experience, from sheer terror to great wonder and bliss, and third, because I happened to have received what I now understand to have been a very fortunate arc of experiences over the three ceremonies I partook of. Though brief, it was a range of experience that seems to encapsulate the essence of what it means to engage with this great plant medicine and spirit.



from my trip journal:

“Darkness fell, and we convened in the ceremonial room. We had arranged our small rocking chairs and brought our pillows and blankets. It is best to sit during the ceremony so that one does not become tempted to sleep or otherwise become lost in the vision space.

The helpers half-filled our purge bowls with water and eight candles were lit on the mesa at the end of the room. These provide our only light. The mesa or table contains many spiritual and symbolic items, including a loop of the Ayahuasca vine. It is surrounded by wonderful textiles made by the Shipibo people. Each has a mandala painting depicting a cross section of the vine with vision geometry surrounding it.

The Yahua tribe chief joined us for the ceremony and many of the other tribe members came and sat outside around the room to also take part.

Don Rober made an opening statement, translated by Howard, then began his first healings by going around the room, cleansing each of us with mapacho tobacco smoke on our heads and torsos, and patting our heads with his shacapa while whistling his arcana, the songs of protection. This is very comforting and sets the tone for the ceremony.

The shacapa is a leaf fan that acts as a soft rattle throughout the ceremony. The icaros and arcanas are the songs the shaman sings or whistles that guide the visions during the night. This is an essential and very important part of the ceremony and don Rober will sing them for the next five or six hours straight.


Two Shipibo Ayahuasca textile mandalas in the ceremonial center, along with the shamanic mesa with more Shipibo patterning in its cloth and pottery items (see more below).


The central portion of one of the main mandalas, showing a cross-section of the Ayahuasca vine. In this piece, the women artists have painted human figures in each of the vine's lobes - figures who are in the sacred spiritual space or dimension. The lines and patterns surrounding them illustrate the vision space and fractal dimensions that they are experiencing. These textiles are hand drawn or, in some cases, hand embroidered by the female members of the Shipibo tribe. In the photos below, the same sacred fractal patterning can be seen in the pottery effigy, bowls, and other ceremonial items on the main mesa of the molucca. This is where the shamans focus themselves to do the work of guiding each ceremony.

mesa1 mesa2


continued . . .



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