First of all, congratulations on making it here. Taking part in a sacred ceremony with ancestral medicines such as ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, temazcal, or huachuma/San Pedro, to name a few, is a big step and a sign that you’re serious about doing inner work.
These medicines can act as a guide and catalyst for change in our lives. They help us heal past traumas, identify and release limiting beliefs, gain clarity around the challenges we face, and see our lives with newfound perspective and often – hope. Many of them have proven to help people overcome depression, addictions, anxiety, and PTSD, creating the space for transformative and long-lasting change.
But the medicines can’t do this on their own. Without proper preparation and integration, the experience risks being resigned to the history books as a missed opportunity that could have helped you generate long-lasting positive change in your life. There are certain steps that we can take both pre- and post-ceremony to ensure that we don’t let our experiences go to waste and fall back into the old habits and patterns we wish to break free from.
It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you, it’ll be worth it.
Here’s our guide on how to make the most of your sacred medicine experience.
Set Your Intention
Your intention for entering into a sacred medicine ceremony will act as your anchor throughout the whole process. Whether it’s during a pre-ceremony diet, while you’re in the throes of the ceremony itself, or during the integration phase, remembering your why will help keep you motivated and committed to the process.
While some people may have a very specific intention, for example, healing your relationship with your body, making an important decision, or breaking free from a compulsive behaviour pattern, others may have a broader reason for entering into ceremony. To connect with one’s intuition, to learn, to heal, or to get to know oneself better are all legitimate intentions for taking a sacred medicine.
If you’re struggling to think of an intention but you feel called to the medicine, consider the questions; what do you aspire for you in your life? What struggles do you have that you would like to resolve? Is there anything you need clarity around? Journaling on these prompts and others like them can help you understand what it is you want to get out of the ceremony. The sacred medicines enable us to pray in direct communion with our authentic selves, so connecting with prayer is another way to find direction energetically.
Once you’ve set your intention for the ceremony, it’s time to start preparing for it. Different medicines will entail different levels of physical preparation, but in general, it’s a good idea to come to the ceremony as “clean” a vessel as possible.
For ayahuasca (yagé), it’s important to follow a strict food and drink diet one week or more before the ceremony, with the most important things to avoid being red meat, refined salt and sugar, dairy products, processed foods, spicy foods, coffee, and fermented foods. You should also refrain from taking any other psychoactive substances including alcohol and cannabis, and shouldn’t have sexual relations (including with yourself) during your dieta.
For other medicines, such as huachuma or psilocybin mushrooms, it’s also a good idea to follow a clean diet in the days leading up to the ceremony.
Following a physical diet prior to the ceremony has an important role, as it allows us to enter the experience with a lower level of toxicity in our body resulting in less physical purging. Having eliminated or reduced the recommended foods, we’re often able to more quickly and effectively connect with the medicine and allow it to do its work.
This process also acts as a daily reminder of the commitment that you’ve made to yourself to heal and work on yourself, and so works on an energetic level too.
In addition to a physical diet, it’s important to limit the consumption of potential mental contaminants and adopt self-care and spiritual practices that help keep your mind focused leading up to the ceremony.
Activities like journaling, meditation, mindful exercise such as yoga, breathwork, and spending time in nature are all great ways to prepare for the ceremony and give you clarity on your why. Try to avoid stressful social situations and shocking or violent media content, and toning down social media and Netflix use is also advised. If possible, taking a couple of days off work before the ceremony is a good idea to be able to leave the stressors of daily life behind and get into a clear headspace.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to connect with others to discuss your intentions and how you feel going into the ceremony. This might be an informal get-together between people who have already attended or are planning to attend a sacred medicine ceremony, or going to an integration circle where open and non-judgemental discussion is encouraged. You might also opt to speak one-on-one to a qualified integration specialist, who can help you talk through any fears or doubts you may have.
The power of the word at all stages of the process should never be underestimated – just one conversation with someone who understands your reasons for entering ceremony and actively listens can be all you need to gain clarity around a situation.
Going into the ceremony, it’s paramount to consider the environment in which you’ll be taking the medicine. There are untrained and unskilled facilitators that take on the role of “shaman” and unfortunately, this can result in disastrous consequences for participants.
Make sure to always vet the facilitators that are leading the ceremony. Enquire about their experience, who trained them, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Safety should be anyone’s number one consideration while entering ceremony, as you’re in an extremely vulnerable and susceptible state while under the influence of medicines such as ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms. Any quality facilitator will welcome questions such as these, and be open to discussing their experience with you.
Once you’ve established the safety of your “setting” for your sacred medicine ceremony, you can think about the “set” – your mindset.
Especially if it’s your first time taking the medicine, you may have some expectations about how it will feel, often based on other people’s experiences. It’s a good idea to let these expectations go, and understand that each person’s experience is personal to them, and you’ll get the one that you need.
That may include seeing a kaleidoscope of colours, or no visions at all. It might mean complete ego dissolution, or it could mean simply feeling emotions that needed to come to the surface. There’s no one way that a sacred medicine ceremony should go. You always get the right message for you for the point in your life that you are at.
It’s important to keep your intention top of mind, especially if the experience gets challenging. This, as well as staying conscious of your breath, will help keep you grounded during the journey, and remember why you made the decision to participate in ceremony.
It’s helpful to have certain mantras that can anchor you as you repeat them to yourself in your head during the journey. Some mantras that I find helpful to repeat to myself during the experience are:
Trust the medicine
You are safe
Everything is love
These should be personal to you and your journey, but the key is often something that helps you surrender to the experience and not resist what the medicine is showing you or making you feel.
The breath is also an unbelievably powerful tool during difficult moments in ceremony, which is why meditation and breathwork practice prior can be so beneficial. When your mind feels like it’s in overdrive, try to drop into the body and tune into any sensations you feel, and focus on your breath. As Taita Giovanni often advises, “meditate, and the visions change.” (Medita, y los visiones cambian.)
Remember – whatever you feel, whatever you see, it will pass, and it’s being shown to you for your highest good. Try not to overthink and over-analyse what’s happening in the moment, just let yourself be taken by it, and remember that it won’t last forever.
Another helpful tip is to not think about what you are feeling but feel the feeling.
Integrate, Integrate, Integrate
So, the ceremony is over. Perhaps you feel light, and you’re riding an afterglow. Maybe you feel like some serious shifts took place during the ceremony and you managed to release what you intended to. You might also feel unsure about where to go from here, or even destabilized by what you experienced.
Now it’s time to integrate.
In the context of sacred medicine, this means integrating the lessons and meaning that you derived from the experience into your daily life. As amazing and outer-worldly as these journeys can feel, we always have to come back down to earth. What’s the point of taking part in ceremony if we don’t carry it into our daily life?
If you feel like the lessons aren’t quite clear yet, or if you’re struggling to make sense of the experience, it’s wise to speak to an integration specialist or join an integration circle. The right practitioner can help you connect the dots between you, your life, and your medicine experience, allowing you to take meaning from the journey.
If you did receive certain “downloads” which you now intend to implement, it’s still a good idea to seek integration support, whether in the form of 1:1 coaching, an integration circle, or a group coaching program. These spaces can help us stay connected to the teachings of the medicine and accountable to following through on the commitment that we’ve made to ourselves.
In addition to this, there are also a number of other self-care and spiritual practices that can help you on your integration journey. In the days and weeks following your ceremony, try to continue the diet that you practiced beforehand – eat healthily, meditate, journal, exercise, create art, and spend time in nature.
These activities will help you gain further clarity about the actions you want to take. And perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s not a good idea to jump straight into a party environment and consume alcohol or other drugs. We continue to receive messages from the medicine even after the ceremony, and doing this can create a block between you and those insights.
If you connected with the music during ceremony – which will likely be the case if you’re ceremony was with yagé – listening to or even learning to sing and/or play the songs you heard can help you stay connected to the medicine.
Check out the Colibri Garden medicine music playlist if you haven’t already – and stay tuned for the medicine music guitar course coming soon.
Finally, it’s important to remember to give yourself space to process in the days immediately following the ceremony and not put pressure on yourself to jump straight back into your social calendar. If possible, it’s worth taking a few days off work in this initial processing stage – it can take time to feel like you’re on solid ground again.
Making the most of your medicine journey takes work, but the rewards are multiple if you’re willing to put the effort in. Medicine work is about so much more than just the substance itself. The container around the experience and the work you put into preparation and integration can truly transform the outcome of your ceremony.
Interested in taking the leap and joining a sacred medicine ceremony with Colibri Garden?