Ayahuasca is the name given to a drink made with a mixture of at least two plants, one the woody ayahuasca vine, plus another plant such as chacruna to give visions. Various other plants can be added, such as tree barks, different roots and so on, each mixture having a different quality and effect when taken. There are various types of ayahuasca vine including Cielo, Cascabel, Black, Red, White, Thunder, Boa and Jergon. We have eight varieties planted on the land, as part of an ongoing preservation project. Each type of ayahuasca has its own effects and medicine, with Cielo (heaven or sky) being the most commonly used. Ayahuasca vines do not often flower, but in 2015 we had our first two vines in bloom and were able to take some photos to record the event.
Ayahuasca is taken in a ceremonial context, a ritual that helps create a sacred and safe space for people to experience this potentially life changing medicine. It is difficult to put into words the experience of drinking ayahuasca, and many people who do often focus on its visionary nature. Ayahuasca can help us heal and learn on all levels, from the physical, emotional, mental and first and foremost the spiritual as, more than anything, it is a medicine of spirit. In the Western and developed countries we seek to understand the world with our minds. This has its value, but ultimately can become a hindrance to becoming conscious of our heart center.
Ayahuasca is not a panacea – it can cut through limited ways of perceiving the world and of being in the world, but effort has to be made to integrate and ground the internal shifts experienced during a retreat. A process is started, how far this goes, and where this goes, depends on each individual's commitment.
Ceremonies are held in the Maloca. Everyone gathers around 6pm with ceremonies starting at 6:30pm and running until around 11pm. On ceremony days the final meal of the day is lunch. Herbal tea is allowed until 2pm, and water until 6pm. After a ceremony guests can go back to the Guesthouse/Tambo or rest in the Maloca. No food should be taken after the ceremony. The medicine makes your body hot and it is best to have a cold shower to cool it. Running water aids the cleansing process and brings down a strong experience.
Help is always available during and after ceremonies and, with small groups, there is always plenty of time and space in each ceremony for individual attention.
Icaros (sacred medicine songs) are usually sung for most of the ceremony, but there are periods of talking if appropriate. Although the work is serious, there are always moments of humour to lighten things up. Icaros help manage the energy during the ceremony, and provide a point of reference for participants to focus on if things get turblulent.
We have two Malocas. The Lower Maloca is situated in the main dieting area, under the shade of a large medicinal Ojé tree and in front of the stream that runs through the land. This Maloca has a very earthy and grounded energy.
The Upper Maloca is larger and raised some way off the ground at the front. This is more like a spaceship, and often we are blessed with a mystical wind that blows through it as it comes down from the mountain.
Dieta (Amazonian Plant Diet)
It is a traditional way of healing body and spirit in the Amazon by spending time isolated in nature and ingesting a drink made from plants. There are 3 main ways to prepare the plants, infusion in cold water, extraction in sugar cane alcohol and decoction in boiling water. There are also different ways to structure the dieta, depending on the views held by the people or person leading the dieta. At La Medicina guests spend their one-week diet (8 nights) mostly alone in a Tambo (simple lodging). Different health concerns can be addressed during the dieta, but the overall process is one of purification and connecting to the divine energies within the plants and yourself. As you begin to heal, how this manifests can vary from person to person.
Normally guests on dieta drink water infused with plants served once a day for four days. To open yourself up to the plants, the emphasis is on providing an environment whereby the plants and higher spiritual energies are welcomed into your life. This includes a special food menu, which is typically bland, consisting of platano (green bananas), yucca, rice, oats, eggs and fish, with no salt or spices. Meals are normally brought direct to your Tambo or room.
We also follow the traditional rules of no sexual behaviour, no touching others, no use of soap, shampoo, toothpaste or fragrances, and staying out of the sun, minimal talking, minimal distractions and just being open to the plants. This can be challenging, but for those prepared to do the inner work dieting in this way can be a very enriching experience.
We have a dedicated area for dieta, with five Tambos, a Maloca (traditional ceremonial house) and a Tushpa (rustic kitchen) set apart from the rest of the buildings. Of Four small Tambos, each has a single bed, desk and chair, simple shelves and hammock. One shower and two flush toilets in the Maloca are shared among 4 dieters. One big self-contained Tambo has two single beds, desk and chair, two simple shelve and two hammocks, with a separate bathroom. Two more guests can be accommodated in self-contained rooms with private terraces in the Guesthouse located in the central area of the center. They join others for three Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Maloca during the dieta.
The dieta formally ends at 7am on the morning of day 9 by placing a teaspoon of salt in the mouth.
After the Dieta
All dietas have a 30 day post-diet period of further, although lighter, restrictions. These are detailed and explained, along with guidelines for how the process can unfold and how to integrate the deep inner changes into the world back home. The basic post-dieta restrictions are:
No sex (non-sexual touching i.e. hugging is fine)
No street or illegal drugs
No red meat
No spicy foods
No pork for six months