Ayahuasca and shamanic practices have been all over our news feed lately. With big-name celebrities like Michael Pollan, Sting, and Russell Brand touting the life-changing possibilities of medicine work, more people are doing their research and - surprise surprise - there are a LOT of opinions out there. Many of them? Myths, misconceptions, and misinformation.
So, before you hop on a plane to Peru, we humbly offer these clarifications to debunk the myths and untruths around this particular type of plant medicine. Take them in, let them integrate, and make your choice about meeting Ayahuasca from an empowered and informed place! Here's a few common myths about Ayahuasca
Myth #1: It’s just a drug.
Many people try to assert that Ayahuasca and DMT are basically the same thing, suggesting that you might as well just take the drug to get the same effect. What this misses out on? Recreational DMT is a synthesized compound typically created in a lab due to its chemical complexity. Ayahuasca, though it contains the same compounds and is more in its structure, is brewed from living plants using traditional practices, ceremony, and prayer.
Test tubes, versus, plants which are cultivated from the land through generations of shamans? There’s a big difference.
Myth #2: It’s for jungle hippies, new age spiritualists and psychedelic junkies.
Yes, and… you might be surprised at the number of business people, doctors, parents, school teachers, and other “normal” people who have journeyed with this plant medicine. As seekers recognize that Ayahuasca isn’t about “tripping” but about powerful opportunities to heal and connect with the Beyond, the Divine, Source Energy, whatever you may like to call it, people are opening themselves up to possibility. You might even know some of them already!
Myth #3: It’s a wild, hallucinogenic trip.
Lumping Ayahuasca in with other “psychedelics” leads to misguided expectation. Although some experience a very visually dynamic journey, for others, the work with Ayahuasca is more inward, more physical, or even incredibly subtle. Every time you drink will be different. Having a particular expectation can adversely impact your experience, so it’s best to go into ceremony with an open mind and trust that you’ll get exactly what you need.
Myth #4: You’ll be a completely different person afterward.
Rumors have it that you’ll be a levitating, wide-eyed wanderer after your ceremony. This just simply isn’t the case. If anything, working with Ayahuasca will open you to know and experience a truer, more authentic version of yourself. So if your friends and family don’t recognize you afterward, you might wonder -- what version of you were you showing them, anyway?
Myth #5: It is an instant panacea for healing and you’ll get addicted.
It’s important to know that ayahuasca is not an instant cure-all medicine that will heal everything in one session. Many Shamans will say that the medicine opens a doorway to the healing potential that was already waiting, enabling the individual to see their own power and take greater responsibility for their wellbeing. Miracles happen, sure -- but go into ceremony with a prayer or intention, not an expectation.
Although it can be difficult to find reliable research on the benefits of this medicine (due to it being illegal in many countries), ayahuasca has been shown to help healing and detoxification of addictions such as alcohol and tobacco. The impacts which ayahuasca can have one's mental health and addictions can be phenomenal, but the medicine itself has never been shown to be addictive. This myth may have stemmed from the fact that DMT is classified as illegal, alongside highly addictive substances like heroin and cocaine.
Most importantly? Work under the guidance of an experienced shaman.
Many of the above myths come from individuals who have journeyed with inexperienced leaders or poorly brewed medicine. Make sure you’re in good hands, choose a reputable center, prepare your mind and body, and may your meeting with Ayahuasca be guiding, healing and transformative!