By Erik Hendrick
Published in Sapan Inka website
July 20th 2021
There is a huge number of places where it is possible to have an experience with Ayahuasca. Actually, today it is possible to participate in Ayahuasca sessions in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, in different countries of Central America and South America, mainly in Ecuador, Brazil and Peru. In the case of Peru, the use of Ayahuasca medicine is legal and the knowledge and traditional uses of ayahuasca practiced by Amazonian native communities, constitutes a Cultural Patrimony of the Nation. There are different types of contexts, methods, approaches, and styles of administering ayahuasca medicine. And people choose to go to one place or another, according to the personal search, motives and interests. Many are those who seek in the experience with Ayahuasca psychological and spiritual help, many people who are search for life purpose, overcoming traumas and existential conflicts, or perhaps, looking for development and spiritual growth, self-knowledge, awakening of consciousness and exploration of the spiritual dimension. However, not at all places where ayahuasca is administered, counseling of psychological and spiritual nature is contemplated, nor help that allows people to reach an adequate integration of their experiences. In many cases, help offered does not really allow an adequate process of interpretation and assimilation of experience.
Obviously, the short, medium and long term results depend on what way the experience with ayahuasca is interpreted, assimilated and integrated; since, if the experience is not assimilated adequately, probably the experience will not bring many benefits in daily life; however, there is a danger of experiencing certain psychological and emotional disorders, which can even be confused with psychotic episodes and dissociation of personality. The topic is quite delicate, so you must be very careful when choosing a place to participate in an ayahuasca retreat. Not at all places, ayahuasca ceremonies are conducted in a completely professional manner.
On the other hand, it requires a thorough investigation allowing to observe carefully when the use of ayahuasca could become a trigger of a psychotic process, and when experiences after ayahuasca sessions, could be spiritual emergencies, which could even become an opportunity for the expansion of consciousness and development of personality. An incorrect interpretation of the experience can lead some people to experience a dangerous inflation of the ego, and because of that, the person ends up identifying himself with archetypal figures of the collective unconscious, that is, the person could see himself as a prophet, a spiritual leader, a guru, a magician, a shaman; however, it is only delirium of greatness or a loss of psychic equilibrium. The person victim of psychic inflation can drag many others into their delirium of greatness and commit totally negative acts.
The integration of the experience is favored when the person is committed to a spiritual practice or discipline that allows a constant training of the mind and spirit.
Perhaps one of the long-term effects which should be subjected to a thorough research, is what commonly is known as a "life changing" experience, that is, a transformative experience. But what is it that makes an experience resulting transformative? Is a transformative experience the result of a certain type of shamanic ritual, or is the transformative experience, maybe, the result of an adequate interpretation, assimilation and integration of the experience? Apparently, the answer to this question does not lie in whether the experience happened in a ceremony with a healer of a native community of the Amazon, or if the experience happened in another type of context, as in the case of syncretic religions in Brazil, or in a session of Psychedelic Therapy or Psychospiritual Therapy, but on the quality of interpretation and integration of the experience. The testimonials indicate that, in the different context in which the experience is lived, there have been cases of people experiencing positive long-term effects. Similarly, it has been observed that, regardless of the context, many people only experience temporary positive effects. Therefore, it is deduced that experiences that are not properly integrated, usually generate only temporary effects, and experiences that are elaborated in depth, that are integrated into the field of consciousness, and that are followed by a psychospiritual practice, these usually have long-term effects. This is a hypothesis that I hope can be confirmed through a committed research work.
What the therapeutic practice with Ayahuasca allows us to deduce is that, having a transformative experience, it seems to require a certain sensitivity and the ability to perform an adequate process of interpretation, understanding and integration of perceptions and contents or messages coming from the inner psychic world. When this process is carried out, it is then possible to experience an expansion of consciousness that usually brings mental lucidity, emotional balance and spiritual peace. That is, if a person who participates in an ayahuasca ceremony manages to transform their internal visions and their physical and mental perceptions into mental or cognitive understandings, and mainly, if this person is able to put these understandings into practice, it is most likely that the person will achieve changes in his or her behavior, his or her beliefs and his or her lifestyle, which will bring a life experience of greater psychological and spiritual health.
The Ayahuasca retreats, like those organized by Sapan Inka Retreat Center, are a result of the integration between knowledge from the traditional medicine of the Amazon rainforest, especially knowledge related to the ritual use of ayahuasca, and knowledge from Humanistic Psychology, Transpersonal Psychology, Existential Psychology and Psychedelic Psychotherapy. Psychological approaches which include the spiritual dimension within the field of scientific research and clinical practice. The different approaches have been integrated through Psychosynthesis; a method created by Roberto Assagioli.
In the Ayahuasca Therapy, the evaluation of the spiritual dimension plays a very important role; however, therapy with Ayahuasca should not be confused with the practices or therapies belonging to the New Age movement. Therapy with Ayahuasca has theoretical foundations and is based on the practice of disciplines from millenary traditions of wisdom. We think that people who want to participate in Ayahuasca retreats should not confuse Ayahuasca Therapy with belief systems belonging to the New Age movement.
Although Psycho Spiritual Therapy is an attempt to integrate two types of knowledge culturally far apart, integration does not intend to make an unorganized mixture of knowledges. In this integration elements of ancestral wisdom are incorporated into the Ayahuasca Therapy, such as the use of ritual music and prayers as internalization tools during the Ayahuasca ceremonies. In Ayahuasca Therapy, the aim is to achieve an adequate interpretation and integration of the experiences, using a phenomenological reduction method and a symbolic interpretation. Phenomenological psychology allows us to know the essence of the phenomenon that is experienced during the Ayahuasca sessions, through the discourse of the participants. The knowledge, experience and skills of the therapist are very important at the moment in which the therapist gives advice to the participants of the ayahuasca sessions. One of the main objectives of the Ayahuasca Therapy is to help people to translate or interpret their own experiences in a symbolic way, and thanks to certain techniques facilitated by the therapist, a posterior integration of the experience and long-term benefits are possible for the everyday life.
Ayahuasca Therapy allows a detailed exploration of the archetypal images that arise during the amplified states of consciousness, and allows access to psychedelic peak experiences. We must also remember all the benefits that the consumption of ayahuasca drink brings by itself. These benefits are being widely investigated by scientists from various areas of knowledge.