The true healing that comes from Mother Ayahuasca doesn’t end when the ceremony ends. In Shamanism, the ‘post ayahuasca phase’, also known as integration, is actually the most important part of your ayahuasca journey.
Ayahuasca can give you a lot of information, even many tools, but she can not do the work for you. Once you leave an ayahuasca ceremony, the plant will remain with you, and the integration process may continue to unfold over several months or years, allowing deeper healing and profound realizations to come into fruition.
What is integration?
Integration is a process of becoming whole, of taking the knowledge and lessons learned during your ritual experience and putting them into practice in your life. It is a healing process that continues well beyond the ceremony, and can involve changes in habits, relationships, community, perspective and your approach to life. Integration is what brings our new understandings into our reality.
Successful ayahausca integration will require a multifaceted approach to be able to maintain the long term benefits from working with this medicine. As you step back into your life, the integration process will continue to unfold more and more.
Below you will find some helpful tips on what you can do once you return to your day to day life to ensure that your experience translates into long term, positive changes in your life.
Take Time & Be Patient
Life after ayahuasca can be a bit challenging, at least initially. There is a lot to process, and returning to the ‘real world’ can sometimes feel overwhelming. Accept that you may feel a little disorientated or confused when you get back home, and that it may take some time to find your bearings and feel grounded again.
If you have the luxury of time, we strongly advise that you don’t fly home and go straight back to work immediately after your retreat. If possible, allow at least 3 days (a week would be even better) to decompress, relax, and begin to integrate your experience, especially if you have a stressful job or home life.
Throughout the integration process, it is also extremely important to be patient with yourself.
After receiving profound messages and teachings in your Ayahausca ceremonies, you may feel excited to begin implementing new habits and ways of thinking into your daily life. For some, new changes can come more easily. Yet for many, it is a process that is typically slower so that lasting transformation can be achieved. Not everything is going to change overnight, and small, sustainable changes can be just as transformative as big shifts.
If you try to implement changes too fast and then make a mistake, you may judge yourself or simply go back to your old ways of being. So please, be gentle with yourself throughout this process, give yourself flexibility, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes can actually be some of our greatest teachers, when we choose to learn from them.
Embrace introspection and contemplation, yet try to remain in a place of non-judgment. Forgive yourself if you are feeling judgement, anger or shame towards yourself. Also, be cautious not to compare yourself or your process to others that have also been working with the medicine. Everyone’s journey of healing and integration will be unique to them. You may feel your life is going smoothly for several months then all of a sudden you may have a challenging circumstance be presented to you to move through. It is another phase of learning and growth. Just like the medicine comes in waves in ceremony, so does life and its lessons. Remember, a breakdown can be an opportunity for a breakthrough!
It’s important to release expectations around how our ayahuasca ceremony will go, and it is equally as important to release all expectations around integration and the post-ayahuasca process.
Oftentimes we can assume that life after ayahuasca will look a certain way, but remember – ayahuasca is not a magic pill. We still have work to do after the ceremonies, and integration may be very different from how we envisioned it to be. This is why it’s so important to release any expectations, and be open to how the journey will continue to unfold.
It is also important to note that during an ayahuasca ceremony, you may receive messages or visions that seem ‘certain’. But keep in mind that ayahuasca is a mysterious medicine, and she can sometimes work in ways we don’t understand with our rational mind. Sometimes she is direct, and sometimes vague. Sometimes these visions come to fruition, and sometimes they don’t. More often then not, the message is veiled in ways that aren’t as obvious. Avoid becoming frustrated if certain messages or visions don’t come to fruition, and try to take literal messages and translate them into figurative ideas. Think of them as nudges guiding you in a certain direction that is open to reevaluation and reinterpretation as life moves and changes.
Accept your Emotions
After an ayahuasca retreat, it is common to feel both highs and lows in your energy. This is normal and to be expected. It is during these energetic fluctuations that you can learn to let your energy flow, and integrate different aspects of the self. As the medicine continues to work with you, you may experience more emotional purges, releasing old imprints and layers of dense energy. Be mindful not to judge your emotions or think there is anything ‘wrong’ with you. It is necessary to feel these emotions in order to release them.
Writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend can be a good way to express how you are feeling to move and release the energies more successfully. Embodied, mindful movement can also be a powerful way to release stuck emotion from the body.
Find Connection & Community
As you re-integrate into your life, you may feel that you do not resonate as much as you used to with somes people from your life before the retreat. After experiencing such deep and authentic connections during your retreat, you may find it more difficult to relate to people from back home. Spend more time with people that are in alignment with your path and less with those that are not. It is common for your circle of friends to change post ayahuasca. It is ok to gently let go of friendships that no longer serve you and this in turn will make space for you to develop new relationships with those that resonate with your new outlook on life.
Take this opportunity to expand your circle of friends, finding people that you feel more open and free to speak and connect with. Consider joining a yoga studio or attending conscious workshops or classes in your community to find other like-minded people that live near you.
It is also extremely important and helpful to stay in contact with those that you shared your experience with. During the retreat, we will create a WhatsApp group to support you in your integration process. This is a powerful way to stay connected, share resources, and share your integration process with those who were with you during your ayahuasca journey.
*A note on sharing your experience with others: After an ayahuasca retreat, you may feel eager and excited to share your experience with friends and loved ones. It is natural to want to share such a profound experience with those you love. But please, be mindful that those that have not experienced Ayahausca may have a difficult time understanding your experience, and may even feel uncomfortable in this new energy.
If you feel that family or friends may be receptive to hearing your experience, go slow and feel out their reactions. Saying too much too soon may produce an undesired outcome. This is a very personal experience that can be difficult to explain in words. Feel free to take as much time as you need to process before sharing it with others, and only share what feels comfortable to you. It is best to share with people you know you can trust that will be more open and receptive to hearing about your medicine journey.
Rather than oversharing and dispersing your energy, protect your realizations and become the embodiment of the teachings you have received.
Implement a Mindfulness or Spiritual Practice
After experiencing several ayahuasca ceremonies, you have likely received an incredible amount of insights, understandings and messages. Most people also report feeling a deeper connection with the universe (God, source, spirit, oneness – whatever you wish to call it). In fact, for many people, ayahuasca is their first genuine experience of the divine. With an expanded consciousness, many people report feeling a profound sense of peace, indescribable bliss and a deep love and empathy for all life.
That being said, it is important to nurture these feelings through some form of daily practice. The benefits of having a regular mindfulness or spiritual practice in your life are almost limitless. This can be different for everyone, so find what resonates with you, and what you can be consistent with.
Some practices you may want to incorporate into your life include:
- Meditation, Mantras or Prayer
- Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong
- Journaling or writing poetry
- Gratitude practice
- Time in nature
- Consuming nutritious foods
- Listening to music
- Spending time with loved ones
Experiment with different practices and find out what works best for you. When you have found what works for you, do your best to commit to this practice daily, or as often as possible.
Meditation can be one of the most powerful tools in your integration process. By nurturing your ability to connect and lovingly witness the spaces within yourself, you’ll become more familiar with them and develop the ability to stay in that space.
If your mind is negative, restless, or overactive, meditation will help you become the observer, witnessing what is arising rather than identifying with it.
A meditation practice can be as simple as focusing on your breath for a few moments. To practice a simple form of meditation, find a comfortable, upright position, close your eyes, and observe the sensations of breathing. If you get distracted by a thought, notice it briefly, and then gently guide your attention back to the breath. By practicing this technique regularly, you will begin to develop mindfulness in all aspects of your life.
If you have a challenging time quieting the mind, start with listening to soothing music or follow a recorded guided meditation. There are a myriad of benefits from meditation such as decreasing stress, depression and anxiety while improving energy levels, focus and emotional intelligence.
So start a daily meditation practice of some sort, for a few minutes a day, and make this a constant practice.
Focus on Your Breath
As you have learned in ceremony, your breath is one of the most powerful tools for moving energy. This is a great practice to continue to use in your life for further healing in the body. Conscious breathing practices can produce more oxygen in the brain and also allows more toxins to be cleansed from the body. Benefits can also be found in the reduction of depression, anxiety, stress and PTSD.
Your breath is your life force, and adopting breathwork practices can improve your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Breathwork as a body-mind therapy creates a conscious connection with the body’s ability to move from restricted chest breathing to an open full body abdominal breathing. Similar to the physical benefits, breathwork therapy can also emotionally purify and integrate subconscious imbalances and release tension by creating higher states of awareness. Some research has also shown that a natural byproduct of connected breathing is the stimulation of the longer brainwave patterns (long wave Alpha, Theta and even Delta) normally found during various stages of sleep, transcendent or meditative states of consciousness.
By consciously focusing on your breath and learning different techniques to amplify its therapeutic benefits, we feel this can serve as a valuable tool to help you throughout your integration process. Practicing breathing will help you to stay calm and focused. During times of difficulty or stress, your breath becomes your best guide.
While more complex practices exist, many easy, quick exercises can be worked into your daily wellness routine.
Journal & Express Gratitude
Journal before, during, and after your retreat. A journaling practice can be incredibly supportive on your path toward healing and well-being. Keeping a record of your thoughts and feelings encourages reflection for self-awareness, and will enable you to develop a new perspective that may initiate change that will lead to your healing.
Writing in a stream of consciousness style can also help your brain recall and process parts of the experience you may have forgotten. Looking back and reading over your feelings and revelations can help you reconnect to those emotions and reignite them in your life back home.
Journaling also provides a beautiful opportunity to express gratitude. We recommend taking a few moments each day to recognize what you have in your life that you are grateful for. The key is to truly drop down into your heart space while feeling the gratitude for each thing you are recognizing.
An attitude of gratitude can make you happier, improve your self-esteem and mental strength, enhance empathy, and help you bounce back after difficult circumstances.
Spend Time in Nature
After ayahuasca, most people report feeling a much deeper connection with nature and Mother Earth.
Post ayahuasca, it can be extremely beneficial to spend time in nature. Being surrounded by nature has immensely positive effects on your being. Spending at least 20 minutes in nature per day can boost serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes you feel good) and Vitamin D, lower the stress hormone cortisol, improve skin conditions, improve cognitive function, support better sleep, and enhance natural healing. It also increases activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability and love.
Go for a walk barefoot in the grass. Whether your time is spent in a neighborhood park, at the beach or in the forest, mother nature will help ground you and bring more harmonious and balanced vibrations into your being. Nature is medicine! Spending time outside in nature uplifts our energy and serves as a great anti-depressant.
The Japanese even have a type of therapy they call Shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”. It has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Therefore, we recommend staying connected with nature as much as possible. Surround yourself with nature at least once per week if you can. This should be possible wherever you live. Even if you live in the middle of a big city, there should be parks you can visit. Anywhere where there are trees and flowers and plants will do, but if you can get out into the wilderness then even better!
Have Fun & Be Creative
Sometimes integration can feel heavy or challenging. So it’s essential that you approach life, your integration process, and yourself with laughter and a lighthearted attitude.
Express your inner child, be creative, and find ways to play that bring you to a more lighthearted state.
There are many forms of play that can help to bring you back to a space of childlike freedom and joy. Some examples include:
- Playing with animals
- Singing or Music
- Playing outside in nature
- Being with friends
Creative expression can be especially helpful throughout the integration process.
Learning to express yourself creatively and honestly can be a potent form of healing and letting go of what no longer serves you. Explore painting, writing, dancing, drawing, cooking, making music, ceramics, etc. Explore a new creative hobby or delve deeper into a creative outlet you already enjoy.
This is sacred work, not solemn work, so remember not to take yourself or life too seriously.
Work with an Integration Coach or Therapist
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you still feel like you need some extra help and that’s perfectly ok. Working with the healing tradition of ayahuasca and plant medicine can often result in core changes to our self perception and our identity. When we change who we are, or more accurately, return to who we really are, it is common to encounter a variety of challenges when we return home.
Working with an integration therapist can be a great source of guidance and support. If you’re someone who excels in a more structured environment or struggles staying committed to regiments or implementing new habits, working with a therapist or a coach can be super valuable. Look for someone who has experience with psychedelics specifically.
Ask our center directly about working with an integration coach and we will refer you.
Honor & Take Care of Your Body
During an ayahuasca retreat, your system is deeply cleansed and remains sensitive in the weeks that follow, so it is important to treat it gently and be mindful of what you consume moving forward. This applies both physically and mentally.
Follow the recommended post-ayahuasca diet: First, be sure to continue the Ayahuasca diet recommendations for the length of time indicated. The post-aya diet has been used by the local indigenous people to boost the power of plant medicine and make the healing process more efficient. Thus, it is in your best interest to follow it because your body needs time after the ceremony for the body and spirit to heal. If you want to stay feeling positive – on all levels of your being, then it’s important to eat healthy foods.
During your retreat at Willka Runa, we provide high quality, nutritious and organic foods, so you already have a head start on this one. You don’t have to be perfect, but try to be extra mindful of the connection between your mental health and the foods you consume. Continue to incorporate more whole foods and plant based foods into your diet. Organic is always best. Better to invest now in your health than to have to pay for it later. If you eat meat, try to only eat organic free-range meats. Stay hydrated with purified water as this will also continue to flush out toxins and cleanse the body. If you can, avoid processed foods. Also, reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake.
Additionally, watch what you consume mentally. If watching the news or social media tends to get you down, limit your screen time. This concept extends to the people you have in your life, the interactions and conversations you have, yet another reason having a community to turn to is so valuable. Overall, be intentional about your physical and mental consumption.
*Note: After your retreat, we will email you a detailed overview of the Post-Dieta Information.
Listen to your body: By listening to your body, you can re-establish the connection necessary for your continued healing. So, listen to your body on how it wants to be nourished with food, how it wants to move or rest, and how it wants to connect spiritually.
It is very important that you take the time to ask yourself “what is the most loving thing I can do for myself today?” And let your body provide you with the answer. You may discover that you need physical rest, nourishment, hydration, or mindful movement.
Make sure to allow yourself the time and space to rest when you need to. This is really important, as this is often when deeper integration and re-calibration takes place.
Remember this – your body knows how to speak to you. It knows what you need and only you can take the healing journey to re-learn how to tune in.
Exercise: It is very important to move your body. Energies and emotions can get stuck in the body, and this can effect your mood, emotions, and perceptions of life. Moving your body will help to move stuck energy, which can help calm your mind and release trauma stored in your cells.
We recommend exercising at least three times a week. Whether you enjoy running, yoga, strength training, dancing, swimming, biking, or a walk in nature – find what makes you feel good. This will help cleanse not only your physical body, but also your emotional and mental bodies.
Let Go of Fear & Trust the Process
During your ayahuasca ceremonies, you will learn what it means to truly surrender, let go of fear, and trust the process. This is a powerful tool that is beneficial to implement into your life moving forward.
It is inevitable that you will still face challenges in life, and this where where opportunities lie for your greatest growth and healing. These challenges will have varying levels of hardship, yet the key is trusting in the process enough to let the emotions and pain pass through without taking on unnecessary suffering. Often difficult situations arise as a way for you to release unneeded energies.
Ayahuasca has gifted herself to the masses in this day and age so that we may heal ourselves and help heal the whole. So, take advantage of all situations and experiences that come your way as a means to heal and grow more expansively.