Ayahuasca has a way of giving you what you need, not what you want. It will make you sit face to face with your traumas and fears, and help you release all that is no longer serving you.
4 ceremonies with a plant that can change your life forever. If you allow it.
Surrender is the name of the game. Surrender to your shadow. Surrender to your traumas. Surrender to fear, and judgement. Surrender to all the boxes society has placed you in.
Surrendering to whatever Ayahuasca chooses to show you, is the path to light.
It’s a brave call to answer. It’s not an easy journey. Some ceremonies being full of bliss, some being full of purging the shame. But after facing my shadow, not only seeing it, but learning to accept, and love these parts of myself, I left feeling a deep sense of inner peace and love.
I am most grateful my first time sitting with ayahuasca, was at Soltara. The maestro’s, the facilitators, the land, the deep healing the medicine provided. Along with the most beautiful group of people to share the journey with.
Integrating all the knowledge, and love into daily life is the next step in the journey.
Below I will go into detail about some of the Peruvian Shipibo traditions, what a ceremony is like, my personal experience, how integration is going, the location, and retreat center. Please feel free to reach out with any further questions in the comments below. And note that Ayahuasca is not for everyone. While it is slowly becoming a popular healing route, it is a very intense process. This blog post was not written to tell you to try ayahuasca. It is me simply sharing my experience with the world.
We had the pleasure of sitting with Maestro Fransico and Maestra Maricela. Maestro/a is the term for master healers. Together they have almost 50 years of experience with Ayahuasca. A lot of healers will do something called a diet with the plant. Meaning they go live in the amazon with another experienced healer for an extended amount of time, and learn the spirit of that plant. They use that knowledge to help heal others. Ayahuasca itself is a vine, consuming ayahuasca alone will do nothing. It must combined with chacruna, a bush leaf. A brew is made with the two components, in which you consume in ceremony.
You will notice a lot of the facilitators and maestros smoking a tobacco called mapacho. It is smoked with the intention of protection, we were given some during every ceremony. While I smoked it with the intention of protection, I also used it to get the flavor of the brew off my tongue. Spoiler; It’s not the best tasting stuff, and it seems to get worse each ceremony.
Along with Ayahuasca ceremonies, we also had flowers baths before our first and last ceremonies. The intention behind the flower bath is to cleanse you of heavy energies, blockages, and negative thoughts, through the properties of the specific plants and flowers.
annnnnd I almost forgot about vomitivo. Staying true to traditions, we drank lemon grass water till our body naturally regurgitated it. This was on the morning of our first ceremony, and is only done once. Let’s just say it’s kind of a breaking the ice game. Once you projectile vomit the water back up in front of 20 people plus, you’re connected for life. You’re essentially chugging as much as you can, as quickly as possibly, and let it all back out. I will be honest and say, it was not nearly as bad as it seems, and you feel very cleansed afterwards.
At Soltara, they do such a wonderful job of staying true to a lot of the Shipibo traditions. I really enjoyed this aspect of the journey. With that being said, the ayahuasca ceremonies are like nothing I could have ever imagined, and it’s hard to even put words together to describe them. Being some of the most intense, yet magical nights of my life.
The Maloca is the name of this building, in which all ceremonies and meetings are held. It is set up for ceremony with a bunch of mats in a circle a few feet apart. Everyone is assigned to a mat and it has everything you’ll need. Before ceremony each night, we had the option of attending yoga, a practice I found to be very grounding.
Once 730pm came, the facilitators and maestros settled into the center of the room, and ceremony began. One at a time, everyone goes up to the alter to get their serving of ayahuasca and mapacho. Once everyone is served, the maestros drink, the lights are turned out, and you wait. There is a lot of waiting involved. Waiting for them to start serving, waiting for everyone to be served, waiting for the ayahuasca to hit, waiting for your icaro, and at some points waiting for the medicine to go away.
Above I mentioned an icaro, (pronounced eck are o) it’s a healing song. The icaros come through the maestro’s from the ayahuasca spirit, and that is what is sung during ceremony. A lot of the songs start off and end with a light whistle. They are all very different yet similar at the same time, and they each serve a partial purpose for healing. Once the maestros are ready, they head to opposite sides of the room, and sit by the edge of someone’s mat. You sit up and face the maestro when they come to sing your icaro.
They will sing for as long is needed. Some songs feel like they are going on for hours, some feeling like they are over in seconds. In each ceremony we got one icaro from both Fransico and Maricela. Once all icaros have been sung, they go back to the center of the maloca. When it’s time the facilitators announce ceremony is over, we thank the maestros and they leave. Except for the bathroom, you are not to leave the maloca until the maestros have left. It is considered disrespectful.
Ceremony is long, beautiful, and very intense. You are on your own journey, in a room full of people on their own journey. There is a lot going on, people crying, screaming, vomiting, yawning, getting help from facilitators, and icaros being sung nonstop. At times it is quite overwhelming, and can feel triggering. But it is part of the process, to surrender to all that is happening around you.
Surrender, surrender, surrender, it is the best thing I did for myself during this entire journey.
Ceremony on average would start at 730pm and end between 12 and 3am. Although, you have no concept of time as it is happening.
Pro tip; go to the bathroom before the lights go out, or before your medicine fully kicks in. Once it takes you over, your depth perception and ability to do pretty much anything goes out the window.
My Personal Experience:
I have been on a self healing journey now for quite a few years. Recently realizing this journey is for life. I have taken many different routes including prescription medication, talk therapy, breath work, journaling, other plant medicines- both at home and in ceremony. I still include a lot of these in my daily practice. But I was ready for something more, I felt very called to sit with Ayahuasca. I completely surrendered to the entire experience before even getting on the plane. I was open to any and everything that was bound to happen. Except for the three hour line I had to stand in at customs, that was lame.
Walking into this experience I was excited, it felt like exactly where I was supposed to be. Sure maybe some nerves as to the unknown, but I trusted this was my path. Before attending Soltara I gave dieta aka prep my absolute best, following it as closely as possible. Check out my what all dieta consists of here.
Love, Shame, Purge and Bliss:
Each ceremony was very different, I titled them Love, Shame, Purge, and Bliss. I always had an intention set before ceremony, but kept in mind, I don’t run the show Ayahuasca does.
My first ceremony was the most intense and beautiful thing I have ever felt, it showed me unconditional love. When maestro Fransico sang my icaro, it felt as though he was performing open heart surgery. In moments I could hardly breath, I could feel him tweaking and twisting my insides. It was as if he was realigning my soul to able to love to a whole new level.
In ceremony two I sat for my first icaro, then remember nothing but coming to a few hours later. At first I thought had fallen asleep. After talking it over with some facilitators, this was me and my shadow doing a dance. I used to drink, take drugs, and black out a lot. That next morning I woke up feeling the shame I would after a wild night. It took me a while to unpack all that ceremony was there to teach me. It was there for me to learn to love the side of me I had been ashamed of, my shadow.
Ceremony three was the night I purged, a lot. I went in with the intention of clarity, specifically in my career. Once my first icaro came, I vomited the entire time. When this thick, black, sludgy liquid comes out of you, you can’t stop. The smell alone is enough to keep the purge going. It sounds pretty weird to be proud of the fact I vomited for minutes straight. All in front of a healer singing to me, but it’s actually a compliment to them. It means the work is happening and you are releasing what is no longer serving you. Did I get any clarity on my career as I had hoped? No. I am actually still unpacking this one. It is very normal to have an intense experience with ayahuasca, and not know what it means for days, weeks or months after.
My last and final ceremony was gentle, loving, and full of joy. It was as though the maestros were plucking the final bits of judgement, fear, and negativity from my body. Then realigned my energy, and sealed me up to share my light with the world. After each of my icaros that evening, I fell back on my mat with a smile ear to ear, feeling nothing but bliss.
I feel so grateful for every minute of every ceremony. They all serve such a deep purpose in my healing journey.
Now keep in mind, everyone will have a different experience, and every ceremony will be different for that person. PersonalIy, I am someone that has a lot of visuals. I also feel a lot physically, and I brought forward a lot of repressed memories. In our one on one, the maestros said I was “dominating the whole experience”. In translation they said that was huge compliment and I was truly open to whatever the medicine had to offer.
The work doesn’t end when you leave the maloca, when you get home, or a week after ceremony. The work continues every moment of everyday. It’s a practice that needs to integrate into every aspect of your world.
I will say traveling home so soon after leaving Soltara was not the best choice. I felt very raw and vulnerable. Being in an airport surrounded by so many people was very overwhelming. The medicine is in your system for a while. So, I will relax in nature for a few days after, the next time I sit with Aya.
Some things that happened in ceremony are still popping into my mind weeks later. Taking walks outside has been a beautiful way to reconnect with ayahuasca here at home. Journaling has been a helpful way to let my mind unload all lingering thoughts. Keeping in contact with all the amazing people I met at Soltrara, has been a gift I could have never imagine I’d receive on this journey.
It’s also really important to remember this is MY journey. No one else has to approve or understand it, I decide how much I want to share with who and when. What I experienced is so extreme, deep, and magical that even writing this blog post doesn’t do it justice. While it’s all saved in my heart, I do feel compelled to share the details I did here. With the intention of sharing the beauty ayahuasca has to offer.
Edit * Here I am two months after my last ceremony, gearing up for my next retreat. And I am STILL unpacking all that I learned. I feel as though since sitting with ayahuasca, everything is a mirror. I am seeing things so clearly now a days, there is a whole new level of awareness to my being. Some things I was not ready to face, but she’s made it so I can no longer avoid. Triggers still happen, frustrations still rise, and a lot of asking myself why. I see big changes coming in the future, however it is recommended to sit with these thoughts for a while after ceremony, before jumping to any sudden decisions. So while I was taught a deep sense of love, and peace, my journey is still going and has not been an easy one. *
Soltara is a healing center in Costa Rica, that I had heard about in Aubrey Marcus’s podcasts. After doing a bit of research, seeing photos of the property, and learning they are big on keeping ceremonies true to the Shipibo traditions. I was sold. Once on the property you are not allowed to leave until the retreat is over. A rule in place to keep us all safe. Honestly, there is no need to leave. The property has two paths leading to the beach, hiking trails, many different ‘outdoor living rooms’ to lounge, a pool, star deck, dining area, wifi and a laundry service. What more does one need?
After all this trip was about healing, being still, connecting with others, and enjoying nature. It wasn’t about seeing and doing all that Costa Rica has to offer.
They keep you on a decently packed schedule, but its all for your benefit. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is always at the same time. Except no dinner on ceremony evenings. The food prepared was full of flavor, and quite diverse. I don’t understand how chef Jess comes up with all these creations. There are multiple meetings you will need to sit in on, some longer than others, all information necessary for the process.
There is yoga offered almost daily, I went as much as I could and loved it. The facilitators are who make it all possible. Between translating with the maestros, leading ceremony, and there to talk you through any question or concerns. They are the people that become your rocks in hard moments. They are all very knowledgeable and caring humans with a ton of experience with plant medicine. Soltara does a great job picking their staff.
The journey there:
The trek to Soltara is quite long, but included in your retreat package. With traffic, it was a 2 hour bus ride, 2 hour ferry ride, then another 30 minute bus ride. Flights and hotel before and after your stay is not included.
I flew United, and stayed at the recommended hotel, The Wyndham. I would not stay there again for anything other than convince, and a cheap place to crash upon arrival and departure. They do have a pool if you have a few hours to kill. Also, a restaurant on site where they understand dieta, and are willing to cater to your preparation needs.
If you do stay here before, check out SIP juice bar. It’s a 10 minute walk from the hotel, great for breakfast.
I had actually booked a 12 day retreat to Soltara for April of 2020, but we all know how plans changed that year. I truly don’t think I was prepared then, I think the universe something better in store. It all unfolded the way it was supposed to. The connection to the people in my group, that I now call friends, was worth the wait alone. There is so much more to this journey, other than ceremony itself.
I hope this blog post shed a little light on ayahuasca for you. Before going I had listened to many podcasts on others experiences in ceremony. While that was interesting, it was also intimidating because these people have many, many ceremonies under their belt. My intention behind this post aside from sharing my personal journey, was to share a first timers story with the medicine. If you are considering sitting in ceremony, and have any questions, please feel free to reach out in the comments below, DM me on instagram @brittanymassey, or shoot me an email at Cloudstodirt@gmail.com. Im happy to give the honest truths on anything you may be wondering.
While ceremonies are life changing, and quite possibly the most magical gifts, it’s important to remember
LIFE IS THE CEREMONY! 🌈
UPDATE: I have officially signed up for my next Ayahuasca retreat in Peru. I will be heading out April 23rd 2022. Stay tuned!