It’s one of those experiences which most people haven’t tried…
In North America, most people have at least heard of ayahuasca. To many though, it’s only known vaguely as a drug or a tool for a vision quest. But the reality of the traditional ayahuasca ceremony is completely different from the imported version:
This is an ancient traditional ceremony practiced by various groups of people in different South American countries for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.
It’s not something you do at a party. The aim is not to “get high” -which many people who don’t understand this rich and important tradition denigrate it by misusing this deeply potent sacrament.
A true ayahuasca experience is a deeply spiritual one. It can help you get a sense of your deeper self and your place in the world.
Today, there are places in Brazil – and elsewhere in South America – where the rich cultural tradition of ayahuasca brewing meets modern accommodation and amenities.
These places are called ayahuasca retreat centers.
What is ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is an ancient brew made from a combination of two plants which are sacred to the shamanic traditions of various groups of people in South America.
From a scientific perspective, the two plants – the Chacruna plant and the Caapi vine – combine together to allow the drinker of the ayahuasca brew (which is made something like a tea) to experience a powerful consciousness expanding effect.
This effect has been used in the traditional ayahuasca healing rituals which have been a feature of societies in several South American countries going back to the earliest related stories.
The Caapi vine is often referred to as “the teacher” in many of these places. This is due to the expanded thoughts and awareness which imbibing it can often result in.
What is an ayahuasca retreat?
Set in the natural beauty of Brazil’s Bahian coastline, you’ll find the Spirit Vine Center.
Run by a licensed psychotherapist, the Spirit Vine Center is a great example of how the best modern ayahuasca retreats focus on creating a safe and supportive environment for people to come, relax, prepare for and experience everything that an ayahuasca ceremony has to offer.
Typically, people stay for a week or more. There are no drugs or alcohol allowed here. Visitors eat the freshly-prepared vegetarian and vegan diets which are specifically designed around getting the best out of your ayahuasca experience.
Group sharing and learning sessions are an integral part of that experience. As the ayahuasca starts to “teach” people about themselves and experience new thoughts about the universe and their place within it, having experienced guides who can help you integrate the content in your everyday life is a huge bonus.
You can even participate in yoga sessions and workshops (the retreat is trans-denominational) where you can learn tools forspiritual development that can be applied in everyday life. All set in beautiful landscaped gardens in the heart of the Atlantic rainforest.
Plus, of course, Bahia is a picture-postcard part of Brazil. It’s lined with glorious white-sand beaches, basks in beautiful sunshine, is full of intriguing villages and other places and contains vast swathes of lush Atlantic Rainforest. It is also a hub of surfer and yoga culture.
In short, it’s worth sticking around to explore a little.
The ayahuasca ceremony experience
When it gets dark, with the bird and animal calls of the surrounding Amazon Rainforest all around, the Spirit Vine Center holds its ayahuasca ceremonies.
These are conducted by the facilitator – a sort of master of ceremonies – called an ayahuasquero.
Specially selected music plays and people who have journeyed from around the world gather to partake in what is to many people, a sacred experience.
Most modern ayahuasca retreats have special places where their ceremonies are conducted. Spirit Vine is no exception:
They have a purpose-built ceremony room, set beside a picturesque natural lagoon where you can swim in the free time.
As a group, you drink the carefully prepared tea – the center grows its own plants and brews the tea using traditional techniques and no additives of any kind – and sit back.
The music guides you and creates a sort of spiritual soundscape for you to explore. Many participants describe experiencing a feeling of oneness with the natural world or a kind of greater awareness of themselves and their own internal balance.
Retreat, reflect and learn
People from around the world journey to places like the Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Retreat Center to experience ayahuasca.
Some seek spiritual awakening or exploration. Others want to address past trauma or experience new things.
In a safe, comfortable, carefully planned, paradisaical setting like the Spirit Vine, this is all too easy to imagine.