How I Prepare for an Ayahuasca Retreat

As I’m getting ready to embark on my second Ayahuasca Retreat at Nimea Kaya in Peru, I thought I’d share my preparation process this time around.
Because this ancient plant medicine is one that works on every level of your being (physical, mental, spiritual), I believe it’s important to cleanse and connect to each of these layers beforehand.
It’s important to note that everyone’s process if different.
Meaning, what works for me, might not feel effective for you.
Although there are, of course, some purifying recommendations/requirements for everyone (especially when it comes to diet, prescription and recreational drug use)- the rest of these practices are simply ones I’ve adopted for ME.
Try what works, and leave the rest.
Create your own based on your needs.
Above all, enjoy the journey.
It will undoubtedly be a wild one that’s about to change your life.

1. Food and Drink Diet:
Regardless of where you decide to do your retreat and/or single ceremony, you’ll likely be asked to alter your food and drink consumption from the shaman/leader of the experience. The Ayahuasca diet is essentially how I eat anyways, so I don’t change much personally.
Below is a variation of Nimea Kaya’s advice on the matter:
-Start adjusting your diet at least 2 weeks prior to your retreat start date in order to effectively cleanse the body.
Definitely eliminate pork and red meat in this time. If you eat meat, fish and chicken are okay.
-Definitely eliminate alcohol in this time.
-Do your best to cut back or fully eliminate: processed foods, fried food, refined sugars, highly salted foods (small amounts of mineral salt is okay), gluten, caffeine and dairy.
If this sounds nearly impossible to you, and you don’t know what the hell to eat once all of this is eliminated- check out some of my recipes for nourishment AND satisfaction.

2. Prescription and Recreational Drugs:
I do not take any prescription drugs, so I cannot comment on this directly.
PLEASE make sure to tell your shaman/retreat leader EVERYTHING you are taking to ensure a safe experience.
I’d also advise that you speak to your healthcare professional about your prescriptions, as well.
Both the retreat leader and the healthcare professional should be the ones to inform you what you need to wean off, and how to do so safely.
It’s suggested to stop all recreational drug use at least 2 weeks prior to the retreat.
This includes cannabis (even if you use it medicinally) and psilocybin (even if used medicinally). 
It’s important to remember that both cannabis and psilocybin are also powerful plant medicines with intelligence of their own.
Letting go of all other plant medicines prior will help to create proper energetic space for Ayahuasca.

3. Sex
It’s generally suggested to abstain from sex and masturbation at least one week prior, AND one week after your ceremonies.
Realistically, this won’t be an issue for me (sad face)- but, it’s important to note, nonetheless.
People often question this one, and I get it.
I suppose the best way to think about it is a preservation of vital energy that can be used towards your healing process, rather than pleasure.

4. Trauma and Violence:
Nimea Kaya suggested we avoid watching, listening to, or reading about traumatic and violent events.
I haven’t seen many other retreat centers make this suggestion, but I figured I’d stick to it before my first retreat.
I’m really happy that I did for a variety of reasons.
The biggest one being that it revealed to me just how much these things are/were present in my life- especially in the form of entertainment.
Cutting out these forms of entertainment (movies, shows, music, and podcasts) showed me the true impact they have/had my psyche.
And, to be honest, this cleanse has now changed my taste (especially in movies and shows) completely.

5. Intention Setting:
This is an incredibly sacred journey, therefore it’s VITAL to enter into it with intention.
Because the line between intention and expectation can often be blurred, I usually sit with a variety of intentions in my daily meditation for days/weeks before boiling it down to just ONE that feels the most “right” in my body and heart.
What the heck does that even mean?
Well, I think it means something different for everyone as your intuitive hits might feel different than mine.
Think of your intuition as a muscle.
Use your meditation time (or simply moments of stillness) to use that muscle.
The more you use it, the stronger it will get.
This means that you have, say, 3-5 possible intentions for your retreat.
Sit with each one individually- repeating it, visualizing it, understanding the WHY behind it, and then noticing how you FEEL in response to it.
Keep in mind, the sensations indicating “yes” or “no” might be very subtle, which is why I’d suggest sitting with each one more than just one time.
If none of this makes sense at all (I don’t blame you), then the best way to come up with an intention for your retreat is to close your eyes, tune in to your breath, place a hand on your heart, and notice what it’s asking for.
Observe your heart’s reason for wanting to do this retreat.
Understanding that your heart’s wisdom will likely be different than your mind’s intellect.
For example, the intention for my first retreat was to return home.
The intention for my second retreat is forgiveness and acceptance.
Personally, I prefer to work with an intention that is somewhat vague- so that Ayahuasca can show me whatever I need to know along the way.
I find that when I get TOO specific, then I start getting into that expectation mindset.
However, I know plenty of people who have gone into ceremonies with super specific intentions and/or questions about their lives- and they were given exactly what they needed.
Feel into what your needs are, and go with that.

6. Meditation:
Although I have a pretty regular meditation practice already, I prefer do my best to increase the volume and length of my stillness leading up to the retreat.
If you’re brand new to meditation, and the word alone intimidates you- no worries.
You’re not alone.
Like I mentioned before, just take a few moments of each day to close your eyes, slow down and even out your breath, and listen to your heart.
This can range from 30 seconds, to 30 minutes.
Whatever you’re comfortable with, and have time for.
You can also find guided meditations on Calm, AloMoves, 1GiantMind, and Youtube.
I find that the more I meditate, the more connected I am both to myself and to something greater (Source, God, Divine, whatever you believe in).
Plus, I feel more grounded and clear.
These are all qualities I personally need to ramp up before skyrocketing off into the cosmos with Ayahuasca.

7. Journal:
I don’t have a regular journal practice.
Sometimes I write every day, multiple times a day, and sometimes weeks or months go by before I jot down my thoughts.
Leading up to my first retreat, I made a point to journal at least once a week.
I also made a point to write letters to Ayahuasca herself as my journal entries.
Sounds pretty hippy dippy, I know.
But, for me, I found it soothing.
I also found that it helped me connect to her in a more grounded way, as I wasn’t only in communication with her while I was tits deep in a crazy trip.
I’m committing to these same journaling practices this second time around, as well.

8. Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable:
This is something that I’m choosing to consciously incorporate before my second retreat.
Now that I have the experience of the first one under my belt, I know just how intense the ceremonies can be.
And, to be honest, I’m more afraid going into this second round than I was the first BECAUSE of my previous experiences.
That being said, I’m choosing to face my fears and/or sit in discomfort a little longer than I normally would in everyday situations.
What does this mean exactly?
Well, this might be something as small as staying in a difficult yoga posture for a few breaths longer than I want to.
Or, it might be something bigger like abandoning my plans and dedicating a month to really training/learning how to surf in Nicaragua- even though it scares the shit out of me.
I’m making the choice to say YES to things that I’d rather say NO to (obviously still prioritizing my worth while doing so), and to observe how discomfort lands in my body, mind and heart.
Breathing through hardship more mindfully, surrendering to what is as opposed to what I want it to be.
All things that, for me, are a lot easier said than done.
Which is how I know I need to keep doing them.

9. Less Social Media:
This one is a little difficult for me simply because social media is a huge part of my job.
However, I also believe it can also be a source of distraction and disconnection (don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice/necessary to numb out and scroll) for me, as well.
Leading up to the retreat (meaning about 2 – 4 weeks before), I start minimizing my time scrolling- and really just use it for work-related purposes.
Post and ghost, ya know?
And, during the retreat itself, I don’t use social media at all.

10. Communication and Relationships:
The same way that we cleanse our bodies through diet, and our minds through meditation- I believe it’s important to cleanse energetically by tuning into how we communicate (to ourselves and others), and who we currently have in our lives.
I do my best to notice my inner dialogue during this time, and redirect negative self-talk to more empowering language, instead.
I also do my best to notice what and how I’m speaking to others about- working to avoid gossip and violent language altogether.
Please know that I am nowhere near perfect at this.
But I do believe awareness is the first step.
Plus, this has proven to be a super useful practice I’ve carried with me well beyond ceremony prep.
As far as relationships go- there are some people in my life who I love dearly, but who also drain the hell out of me.

I press the pause button on these relationships leading up to the retreat so that I can preserve the energy I’d have otherwise spent on them, to use for my own healing process, instead.
Before my last retreat, I let go of a few people.
Most of those people ended up circling back to me.
And, when they did, our relationship was healthier and more balanced than ever.
However, there are others who have remained on the outskirts- as I now realize that our season of friendship has expired.

Although the loss and letting go can certainly be painful, it’s also necessary for growth.
I found that total transparency in releasing these relationships is what allowed me to feel really good about moving forward.
Honest, but compassionate language- letting them know why I needed a break, but also letting them know that I love them. 

Best of luck on your journey, my friends.
You’ve got this. 

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