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I was fortunate because my trip with Pulse Tours gave me four days hanging out and trekking in the Amazon to really s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and absorb that unrushed living-with-nature vibe. Anyway, I was instructed to take a flower bath (or what I prefer to call a “flower shower” for the alliteration) before ceremony in which I sponged water over myself filled with flower petals.
I’d flown into Iquitos a day early, too, so I’d had more time to shift gears. I believe the moment you decide to participate in ayahuasca ceremony the medicine starts working on you. This is to make oneself more appealing to the plant energies. (Some practitioners simply spray some floral water on you that smells a bit like the stuff they use in old-fashioned men’s barber shops.) 5. I don’t smoke and personally hate the smell of cigarettes, but tobacco is a sacred plant in shamanic practice so you need to get used to it.
That may sound bat-shit crazy (hey, a lot of this stuff sounds bat-shit crazy) but the medicine takes you to meet universal consciousness and the funny thing about “U. So (big surprise), when you make your decision, she starts communicating with you. But be reassured it’s not “your dad’s tobacco.” Instead, it’s mapacho tobacco that has a rich, sweet smell that’s quite unlike the chemically adulterated stuff in commercial cigarettes.
Tobacco is used to “seal the container” — meaning it’s blown in places around the (sacred meeting place) whether this is a purpose built round building or any kind of space adapted for the purpose. This is sometimes done by the shaman lighting a cigarette made from hand-rolled mapacho tobacco and inhaling it and blowing it on you (e.g., on your head/crown chakra and chest/heart chakra).
Sometimes I’ve seen the smoke delivered like a smudge, waved over a person with a large feather.
But if you do smoke during ceremony, cover up the light as much as possible and smoke minimally. This can be perplexing to newbies, who may be there for a wide variety of reasons, including healing, curiosity or even thrill-seeking.
An example might be, “I want healing” or “I seek purification” or “I want guidance with the path forward in my life.” If you set your intention as something like, “I wish to clear up the relationship with my mother who makes me so angry sometimes because she keeps comparing me to my brother, and just because he excels academically I know he has a lot of issues she doesn’t know about…” or something like that, you just won’t be able to remember it when you’re in ayahuasca’s thrall. At different ceremonies you may encounter people who surround themselves with stuff: crystals, little vials of different healing potions, favorite objects, shoe options, etc. At a shamanic centre, a mattress will normally be provided and some pillows.
A good intention is kind of like a mantra that you can repeat and come back to if you start losing your way. Let’s assume here, though, that you have to bring your own stuff. Note that this is not the thick kind you inflate with a bicycle pump, but rather the thin kind hikers use, that can be rolled up tight.
I can’t prove it, but I noticed in my last ceremony that the people wearing white clothing had gentler, positive experiences, but who knows?
I bring sandals or flip-flops because these tuck in nicely beside my mattress and are easy to put on or off in the dark.
(Now you see why not a lot of young people in South America are apprentice shamans…) Anyway, I practiced abstinence and had powerful visions my first time. I imagine one of the most neglected areas of preparation among people traveling from busy industrial society to ayahuasca retreat centres is the simple act of paying attention, by which I mean noticing () your mood, what’s around you, nature, and so on. You don’t have to think of it in those terms, if you don’t care to.