Seven Good Reasons NOT to drink Ayahuasca
As one of my most visited posts is ‘Seven Good Reasons to drink Ayahuasca’, I thought I should complement it with this new post ‘Seven Good Reasons NOT to drink Ayahuasca’.
1. Because you don’t know the shaman/curandero/maestro/facilitator leading the ceremony.
This cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Drinking ayahausca with someone you don’t know is like playing Russian roulette with three bullets in a six-barrel revolver. You might get lucky and have a wonderful experience. Alternatively, you might drink with someone who is incompetent, a charlatan or, worse, who actually causes you harm.
2. Because you don’t know where the medicine you are drinking comes from.
The longer I have been drinking ayahuasca, the more I appreciate that the kind of medicine that you drink – that is who made it, how they made it and what ingredients they have put in it – is crucial.
Ayahuasca absorbs the energies involved in its making and these then influence the effects it has. This, of course, runs counter to Western rational, scientific ideas that making it is a just a physical-chemical process and if this is carried out well technically then there should be no problem. There are at least two reasons why this is not so.
First of all, the singing of icaros into the ayahausca when it is being made is important. That requires someone who knows what they are doing.
Secondly, unscrupulous shamans can add other plants to the mixture of the ayahuasca vine and chakruna, such as toé, which makes it easier to manipulate people in ceremonies.
This has been brought home to me recently when I had the opportunity to drink medicine on a dieta made by the people doing the dieta under the supervision of the Maestro leading the dieta. People carefully made the medicine the traditional way, fasting whilst they did it, thoroughly breaking up the vine and painstakingly going through each chakruna leaf, throwing out the ones that were not just right. I have never drunk such clean medicine, sublime in its effect.
3. Because you want to have a ‘trip’.
Unfortunately, in the Western World, notably the USA, ayahuasca is getting assimilated into a pervasive drug culture, so some people taking it are wanting to have ‘big’ experiences and ‘big’ visions.
Ayahuasca is not a drug, it’s a medicine. That’s worth repeating. Ayahuasca is not a drug it’s a medicine.
There is a world of difference between taking ayahuasca because you want to trip your balls off, and whatever the female equivalent of this is (suggestions?), and taking it with profound respect for the extraordinary intelligence and wisdom embodied in these plants and appreciation for the indigenous traditions that have been using this medicine for centuries, possibly millennia, to heal people.
Traditionally, with the Shipibo, only the shaman drank ayahuasca, not the patient.
Fortunately, some of the effects of ayahuasca, like needing to shit and/or vomit frequently, suddenly and explosively, which are an important part of the healing process, do not lend it to recreational drug use.
4. For health reasons.
Much good work has been done outlining the counter-indications to drink ayahausca. This can be because the person is consuming Western medications like certain anti-depressants, or has a specific health condition, like a heart problem, or has previously had psychotic episodes – though this last point is moot.
See, for example, this article by Malidoma Somé pointing out that people diagnosed as crazy in Western societies would be seen as potential healers in traditional societies and would be treated as if they were undergoing a spiritual transformation.
It could be that people taking ayahuasca with a history of what psychiatry sees as mental disorders find that the reality they have experienced, and which has been labelled as madness, is validated by Madre Ayahausca.
However, the environment in which people drink ayahuasca, called ‘set and setting’ in the psychedelic literature, can make all the difference between whether someone is precipitated into psychosis or is able to have experiences that they can contain, work with, and eventually integrate.
ICEERS (the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education Research and Service) provides good information here that outlines the physical and psychological health risks that one should be careful of in drinking ayahausca.
There is also a very good article on ayaadvisor.org about medical precautions which includes a very long list of drugs that may have contra-indications with ayahuasca.
5. Because its ‘cool’.
This reason is linked to the earlier point about ayahausca becoming the latest kid on the drug scene block. As the popularity and globalization of ayahuasca has grown, it has been receiving celebrity endorsements.
One of the most intelligent is from Sting, in an interview with Daniel Pinchbeck.
Here’s another one by Lindsay Lohan, talking about how ayahuasca has changed her life. (It’s only one minute 58 seconds long!)
6. Because you think it will solve your problems
Undoubtedly, ayahuasca has a huge potential therapeutic effect. However, like any therapy, it requires work. It is a not a magic pill. Many people stop drinking ayahausca or turn to something else or another shaman when they do not get the instant results they hope for and/or they get an intuition of the hard work that is needed to really get somewhere with her.
Madre Ayahauasca does not offer a short cut to enlightenment. If you want that, try smoking DMT, though I have doubts about what real changes that leads to. Madre Ayahuasca, like any spiritual path, demands work, dedication and sacrifice. And like any spiritual path, there are many pitfalls along the way.
7. I invite my readers to add the seventh reason in the comments section below (APART FROM THE TASTE).