Preparing for your ayahuasca ceremony is both detailed and extensive.
While mostly safe, there are some risks.
It’s important to observe the preparation guidelines as closely as possible.
Ayahuasca preparation falls into 6 categories:
- Pre ayahuasca Diet Changes
- Pre ayahuasca Behaviour Changes
- What To Bring With You
- What To Wear
- Get Your Questions Answered
- Mental Preparation & Setting Your Intention
Mental Preparation & Setting Your Intention
It’s said that “ayahuasca gives you the experience you need, not the one you want”.
That’s true, but it’s still possible to slightly influence the experience.
What I found was, that ayahuasca amplified what was already present.
I could change the experience by changing my thoughts.
The process of mental preparation is about what you do before the cup touches your lips.
There needs to be a period of “mental cleansing” ahead of drinking day.
Yoga and meditation are recommended, but I didn’t do either of these.
Instead, I asked myself what question I wanted answered during the ceremony.
They call this your intention.
Setting an intention and focusing on it during the week, “embedded” it in me.
The more specific the intention, the clearer your answer.
The dietary preparation is key. What goes into the body directly affects the mind.
Fasting ahead of the ceremony was important for me. I’m sure it helped me not vomit!
It’s also important you go into the ceremony without fear. Reading about other people’s experiences helped. Getting answers to my questions put my mind at ease. As a result, I felt more excited than anxious.
I was prepared mentally and everything went well.
If you worry a lot, maybe go easy on the googling. No matter what you search for, you’ll find people with bad experiences. That could scare you.
Just remember, by following the rules and preparing properly, the risks are very low.
What To Bring To Your Ayahuasca Ceremony
Before my ayahuasca experience I didn’t know what to bring. As a result, I was at the mercy of whatever the centre provided.
Thankfully, Bluestone Ayahuasca gave me a yoga mat, cushions, a blanket, a bucket and tissues. This seems to be the “standard ayahuasca kit” centres provide.
Other participants had more elaborate set ups – I was clearly the only “first timer”. Here’s a comprehensive list of what people often take to ayahuasca ceremonies. You don’t need everything, but hopefully it will be a helpful “memory jogger”.
Select the items you think you’ll need.
Sandals/Flip Flops/Slip-on Shoes
Shoes are not allowed within the ceremony room.
You’ll need to leave them outside. Also, when the ayahuasca kicks in, you might to go to the toilet quickly. Being able to slip your shoes on quickly is priceless.
You’ll be lying on a thin yoga mat for 8-10 hours. This can be uncomfortable.
I was fine thanks to my airplane neck cushion.
I put it under my head, which allowed me to use the main cushion under my hips.
The blanket you get will probably be a woven blanket.
It will be thick enough to keep you warm. You may prefer your own blanket for “home comfort”. In most cases it’s not necessary.
If you bring your own, go with cotton or any other “silent” blanket.
Noisy, synthetic blankets won’t be permitted.
Some people swear by an eye mask.
In my experience it’s unnecessary.
The ceremony room will be pitch black, as will the jungle outside.
I wasn’t able to open my eyes for 90% of the ceremony.
I didn’t need an eye mask – my eyes were heavy enough on their own!
I didn’t bring a bottle of water with me.
I drank nothing the whole night.
Not a good idea.
A bottle is essential, at least 1 litre.
Some centres give you water, mine did not.
Choose a bottle that is silent.
The crinkly disposable/reusable bottles are great for the environment, but not for an ayahuasca ceremony as they disturb others.
Choose one with a lid in case you knock it over.
By 7am the next morning my lips were so crusty.
Layers of “gunk” on top and I was licking them a lot as they were so dry.
In hindsight, a chapstick is essential.
Some people bring snacks.
I did a juice-only diet for 7 days and then water-only for 1.5 days before the ceremony.
I didn’t eat during the ceremony or until the afternoon of the following day.
I didn’t feel like I needed snacks.
After the ceremony was over, the shaman gave everyone fruit (a cube of papaya).
It made me feel sick, and I ate only a slither.
The girl next to me was rolling tobacco before the ceremony.
She offered me one. I told her I don’t smoke.
She told me she doesn’t either.
Turns out she only smokes during ceremonies, if the experience is too intense.
Intrigued, I quizzed her more.
I learned tobacco is “grounding” and brings you down when you’re “flying a little too high”.
I took a roll-up from her, but didn’t need it in the end.
I don’t think I would have been able to smoke it, anyway.
Small Flashlight With Red Light
Ceremonies happen in the dark.
When you open your eyes, it is hard to focus.
It may affect your judgement of how close or far away things are.
I wasn’t even able to open my eyes around the fire at the end.
To go to the toilet, you’ll need a torch.
If you take one, don’t take one with “white light”.
They are very disturbing for others, as ayahuasca heightens the senses.
Important: Don’t use any light inside the ceremony area.
Remember, the people outside are also still in the ayahuasca experience.
Try not to blind them.
Red lights are dimmed and don’t disturb others.
I didn’t need one, but you might.
Make sure the batteries are new.
Useful to freshen up the next morning.
Also useful if you have any purging accidents.
Look, purging from one end, or both is possible.
Wet wipes will make you feel human again.
Pro tip: The ones in the baby section are softer.
Probably not required (I didn’t see anyone with one) but on the forums they seem to be popular.
Just make sure you buy one that doesn’t make noise when you move.
You won’t be allowed to bring it into the ceremony room otherwise.
Thermarests are not permitted for this reason.
Some people prefer sleeping bags as they give that safe “cocoon” feeling.
If you do, avoid nylon sleeping bags.
They are noisy and are often banned.
You probably won’t be able to write during the ayahuasca experience.
The next morning you might want to record the insights, before you forget them.
Ayahuasca does the work during the ceremony.
But the more you remember, the more you can integrate.
Ayahuasca often shows you what is blocking you. And the right path to follow.
Implementing the changes in your life is the next step.
A journal helps remind you of the changes you need to make.
This is useful when you’re back in the whirlwind of your day-to-day life.
After my ayahuasca experience, I recorded a voice note to capture everything.
I used the Voice Record Pro 7 app.
I used the recording to write much of this blog post.
Especially if your ceremony is in Peru or you always get bitten.
I don’t get bitten ever thankfully, so I don’t use insect repellent.
You might need it.
It will help you feel more relaxed during the ceremony.
I don’t recommend focusing on the insects when drinking, who knows what “Mother Ayahuasca” will show you!
Important note: Malaria pills are potentially dangerous when mixed with ayahuasca.
Stop taking them a few weeks before.
See How To Take Ayahuasca Safely, specifically the section called Don’t Mix With Other Drugs, Supplements or Medication.
If you get bitten during the ceremony, some cream to ease the pain might be helpful.
Travel Size Toothpaste
If you think the ayahuasca taste will be too much.
Put some on your tongue immediately and the flavour goes away quicker.
What To Wear During An Ayahuasca Ceremony?
Your clothes will have a big impact on your experience.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Priority #1 – Comfort
Think loose fitting, soft and natural.
Cotton is king.
Synthetic clothes rustle and make noise.
Loose yoga pants are common. Jeans are not.
P.S – Choose underwear wisely. Too tight will disturb you.
Guys, go with loose fitting or sports undershorts (I wear these).
Ladies, go with bras without a wire and comfortable underwear.
Priority #2 – Warmth/Coverage
Bring long sleeves and long pants made of light materials.
In the jungle, they will keep you cool but protected.
Light materials are key because the weather might be hot.
You can layer these for warmth if the temperature drops (which is common at night).
Also remember your body temperature drops naturally, because you don’t move for many hours.
I wear these lightweight, breathable zip up tops.
Avoid the ones with full zips, they can be tricky to navigate.
Priority #3 – Comfortable, Quick To Put on Footwear
You’ll likely need the bathroom and will be searching for your shoes:
- In the dark and
- While deep in the ayahuasca experience
Shoes you could put on with your eyes closed are best.
Go with sandals or flip-flops.
Laces are not your friends. Boots will be impossible.
Also, the bathroom may be a short walk away, you’ll need to protect your feet.
If you need to purge in the bathroom, you’ll need something you can put on quickly.
Priority #4 – Colour & Avoiding Branding, Writing & Logos
Many centres ask you to wear plain white only.
Some centres insist on this, others don’t care what you wear.
The centres that insist may not let you take part if you don’t wear white.
Here are the specific guidelines from one centre I found:
- 3 metres of white 100% cotton cloth (to wear during the ceremony)
- White sweats or t-shirts
- White socks (for retreats in colder regions)
- A towel for drying yourself after washing
- White underwear
- Cowrie Shell bracelet or necklace *optional
- Ceremonial Feathers *if available
Shamans say the reason for the white is because:
- White gives protection from evil spirits
- It attracts good spirits, and
- It’s easier to see your energy, so the shaman knows what you need.
You can decide if that’s true or not.
On a practical level, white clothing is much easier to see in the dark.
Lastly, avoid clothes with:
- Sports teams
No one wears them and you may feel out of place.
Plain clothes are best. No one is sure why.
Maybe it’s so you don’t look like a vain asshole.
Maybe it’s because words and symbols have energy.
If you’re interested in this, read this HuffPost piece by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.
Priority #5 – Have Replacement Clothes With You
You probably won’t need extra clothes.
But sometimes people don’t get to the bucket or bathroom in time.
If the worst happens, you don’t want to be in those clothes until the morning.
Extra clothes, visible to the facilitators (e.g. next to your yoga mat) will be helpful should the worst happen.
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