The cornerstone of ayahuasca healing is shadow work: healing deep-seated emotional and psychological issues by clearing your subconscious mind, the body and the energetic system of negative energies.
Ayahuasca helps to release negative, fear-filled patterns that have built up over many years through a process of witnessing, integrating and releasing emotional traumas. This facilitates new perspectives on the overall biography of your life and the reasons for the various phases, difficulties and painful experiences. Shadow work is the key to discovering an overall greater sense of purpose, presence and peace in your life.
The initial work is focused on cleansing and purifying your physical body to prepare you for the next stages. One quite reasonable expectation is that you will nearly always go through a strong purge with considerable vomiting and/or diarrhea – hence ayahuasca being referring to as La Purga in many parts of the Amazon.
Some people have unrealistically high expectations of their first ceremonies. To see breathtaking visions at an early stage is rare, but they should not be the primary goal in any case. It is important to understand that an ayahuasca retreat at the Temple is focused on deep healing and not ‘tripping’. While it is not unusual not to experience any visions in your first ceremonies, persistence, patience and determination will often, yet not always, lead to the more visionary states after you have carried out essential physical and emotional healing.
It is important to not set your expectations too high before a ceremony. This is captured by a saying that often emerges from retreats: You will always receive what you need, which isn’t always what you want.
When visions do occur, it is common to see a proliferation of colors, lights, geometric patterns and animals. These are actually somewhat peripheral to the work: the more profound healing is taking place on deeper levels, and insights and understandings about the world and universe around you will typically arise from within, not outside of yourself. That said, it is impossible to outline exactly what will happen on your own personal inner journeys. Everyone is different and no ceremony is ever the same as another. Even the most experienced ayahuasca drinker cannot predict what direction their visions will take, although there often seems to be a sense of a “course” (in the educational sense) or trajectory being followed, when one looks back over a series of ceremonies.
Eventually, incredibly vivid visions may come to you – often revealing profound knowledge about your place in the universe, the plant and animal kingdoms, and perhaps even revealing life in other dimensions and galaxies. After considerable work, the spirits of the plants (the ibo in Shipibo) or sometimes ancient shamans (Meraya) in their spirit-form may reveal themselves to you.
Working with ayahuasca is very complex, and the medicine will typically work with you in ways you cannot anticipate, and will not respond to impatient demands. Sometimes, when you are in the process of cleansing and purifying your emotions, your mood can become low. Like any cleanse, it is common to feel worse during the healing process before feeling better. Another truism: true healing isn’t about ‘feeling better, but better feeling’.
One of the keys to the liberation of our shadow material is the unfamiliar motion of turning into, not away from, our discomfort. Allowing difficult feelings and emotions to surface, accepting them, integrating them and then releasing them is an indispensable part of the healing process.