There is nothing like attending an ayahuasca retreat in the lush, vibrant jungle that the plant is native to. Ayahuasca ceremonies are a part of many people’s spiritual journeys, but they can be daunting if you don’t know what to expect. If you’re considering flying down to South or Central America for an ayahuasca ceremony, read on to discover tips about how to choose the perfect retreat center, plus links for what to bring, and what mental and physical preparation to do ahead of time.
How to Choose a Retreat Center
Finding the right retreat center is a process. It’s important to know what you’re looking for in order to make the best decision possible. There are many different types of retreat centers, so you can narrow down your search by deciding on what type of experience you want.
First of all, no matter where you want to go, vet the retreat center by researching it online and reading reviews. Try googling the name of the retreat center with words like scam, dangerous, lawsuit, etc. just in case there have been incidents there. The medicine facilitator(s) should be skilled and experienced in their work; many websites include a blurb about the lineage of their tradition. The staff should be well trained, professional, and appropriately equipped to deal with medical and psychological emergencies.
A reputable retreat center will screen participants extensively to ensure that ayahuasca is the right choice for them and that they are not likely to be a danger to themselves or others. Consider asking about the contents of the ayahuasca brew as well; some retreat centers have been known to include potentially dangerous plants in their recipes.
Retreat centers vary based on location, accessibility, the lineage of the shaman, price, amenities, and reputation. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Location and accessibility
Ayahuasca is legal under cultural patrimony in Peru, meaning that the ceremonial and ritual use of the brew is regulated by the government. Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica are also home to a number of retreat centers, although the governments of these countries do not regulate these centers.
Some centers, such as the Temple of the Way of Light in Peru, are not easily accessed. After arriving in Iquitos, the journey to the temple includes a motorbike ride, bus, big boat, small boat, and finally, a few miles walk down a muddy jungle path on foot. For some people, the beauty of the deep jungle, the level of isolation, and the adventure of the trek is desirable. Some will prefer a more accessible retreat center closer to a city or town.
If you have a medical condition, consider attending a retreat center that is close to a hospital. If you have specific medical or psychological needs, find a retreat center that is equipped to accommodate those.
The medicine person(s)
Some ayahuasca facilitators are indigenous, and some are not. The training and integrity of the facilitator matter most; read this article for more information about the history of ayahuasca healing and how it relates to cultural appropriation.
An ayahuasca facilitator should have significant experience serving the medicine. They should adopt clear physical boundaries; it is not appropriate for a shaman to engage in intimacy or sex with a ceremony participant.
If sitting in ceremony with indigenous healers is important to you, there are plenty of retreats with amazing facilitators. Remember, some ayahuasca centers allow only minimal interaction with the shamans. However, you may be able to participate in intercultural activities such as medicine making, plant walks, and learning about tapestries and their significance.
Price and Amenities
There’s something for everyone in South America. Whether you have a hundred Peruvian soles in your pocket or you’re able to spend thousands on a deluxe retreat, you can find an establishment that works for you.
Some retreat centers come complete with swimming pools and spa options like massage, facials, reiki, reflexology, sound healing, and more. The accommodations at such a retreat may resemble a fancy hotel in terms of bedding, amenities, beauty, and comfort.
There are plenty of quality retreat centers with more affordable prices available. Sharing a tambo/room with another person is a way to cut down on costs. Just make sure that the center has all of your basic needs covered, and that you’ll be comfortable enough to be able to go deep into the ayahuasca experience.
Some retreats are more earthy and cater to nature lovers with their amenities. Staying in a rustic setting can be another way to “retreat” from the comforts of modern society and explore the sensations of a cold shower, a compost toilet, and candlelight.
No matter where you go, remember you are in another country, so things can be different than you might expect in the US or Europe. Try to stay open to new ways of doing things; you may surprise yourself if you go outside of your comfort zone.
Packing for the Amazon
Read this article for a thorough list of what to bring and what to leave at home. In general, leave valuables at home and figure out how you’ll pay for things ahead of time. Bring a copy of your passport in your luggage and send a picture of your passport photo page to your email address. Pack light, but make sure you are prepared for all different types of weather. Layers of clothing are your friend. A few different pairs of shoes will serve you well; make sure they are broken in so you can wear them comfortably for long periods. You’ll want a water bottle, appropriate sun protection, non-toxic insect repellent, something to tie your hair back if needed, a journal, plastic/waterproof bags, and a sense of adventure.
Mental and Physical Preparation
Once you have your retreat center picked out and you know what to bring with you, turn your attention toward mental and physical preparation. You may even start the mental and physical preparation first, as you can do it anytime. Read on to learn more about how to set yourself up for success in your ayahuasca retreat journey. This article will tell you all about the ayahuasca diet.
Whichever retreat center you go for, the most important thing is to remember why you’ve chosen to take this path and trust in and surrender to the process.