Sitting in an Ayahuasca ceremony requires a tremendous amount of trust. You're going to be crazy vulnerable. You're probably going to be purging in a bucket with complete strangers in a space you've never visited before. You're going to hear songs in a language you've never heard of. You might see wildly intense visuals, have a profoundly new relationship with spirit, expand your conscious awareness into darkness and light, and have all manner of cosmic journeys.
Please don't do any of this without fully vetting out who you're sitting with.
When I organized for a gazillion years, I was always disturbed by those who came to the initial interview with no questions or curiosities. You literally need to trust your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual safety to the crew you are sitting with. Folks often assumed I was interviewing them, which was partially true - but what I really wanted was for them to interview me. The more they asked me questions, the more I knew they were ready and serious about the task at hand. This also gave them the opportunity to feel my love and transparency, which always created a deeper space of safety.
Every circle you have the chance to sit with should have one or more organizers accessible for an initial consultation. They should make you feel completely cozy, have a high degree of transparency, and give off the energy that your comfort and education is of the utmost importance.
If you're looking to sit with a group that doesn't do any or all of this, please don't sit with them. If they don't have the time, care, desire, or knowledge to make you a priority at this stage, you cannot trust that they will have your back when and if the shit hits the fan in ceremony. You cannot trust that they can hold space if multiple people need assistance. You cannot trust much at all, and that is the most important aspect of this work.
Things Can Get Crazy During an Ayahuasca Ceremony
If you've sat, you know that's an understatement :)
I absolutely don't mean to scare anyone, but I also must be honest with you - Ayahuasca can be a full on dark night of the soul. It can be your worst nightmares made real. You can reach a place where death feels like a gift. A place where you think you couldn't handle another millisecond. That you'll combust if more energy or darkness or fear or whatever-the-hell-it-is comes through you.
And if you need help, if you need a calming force that is skilled on moving you from hell to heaven, I truly hope you've found a circle that knows how to step up. That's their job, after all. That's why you're paying to participate, following a strict protocol, and trusting a very unfamiliar process. To be protected. To feel safe enough to go deep, face your demons, and do this glorious and sacred work.
How to Know You're in Good Hands
Below is a list of all the questions I myself would ask any organizer about the process. Don't take this as an exhaustive list, however, as you may have more of your own. These are the essentials - make sure you have clear and solid answers about each one. Don't feel like you're an annoyance for asking all of this; you have every right to understand the process.
If anything doesn't feel right, trust that unequivocally. This is not a place to take changes.
Here is my core list of questions to ask any Ayahuasca group or facilitator:
1) How long as the organizer been working with the shaman?
2) How did she/he come to know the medicine? How did she/he come to know the healer(s)?
3) How many attendants are there? How many sitters?
4) Is there any doctrine or dogma that the practitioners hold sacred? (Some ceremonies are facilitated by the Santo Daime, which has a religious element. Those ceremonies are very different from the others, so this is crucial to be aware of.)
5) How much does each ceremony cost? Are their discounts for multiple nights? What is included?
6) What is the ceremony space like? Is it a home or business? What's the parking situation? How many bathrooms? How much space does each participant have? What should / can you bring? Water bottles? Blankets? Pillows? Tissues? Yoga mats? Crystals?
7) What are the advised preparations? What foods should be avoided? What can participants eat? Is it OK to smoke Marijuana before ceremony? Is sexual activity before hand ok, or should it be abstained? Any other recommended prep? (Every circle is different with this protocol.)
8) What health conditions are prohibited? What medications cannot be mixed with the medicines? Make sure to have full disclosure on any health issues and the medications you are taking. This is crazy important.
9) What time do people gather? What time can people leave? Can you sleep in the ceremony space or are there other options? (Don't trust any circles that let you leave right after ceremony. There should be a safe place for you to come back into your body for as long as you need.)
10) What is the shaman's training? Who did he/she apprentice with, and for how long? What lineage do they practice? Is there anything modern or personalized about how the lead the ceremony? What other healing modalities has the shaman studied? Is there a chance to connect with the shaman before or after ceremony?
11) How does the group handle someone who is having a difficult time? What do they recommend a participant do if they are personally struggling? Any advice for riding the wave?
12) Is talking allowed? Dancing? Can participants sing or play musical instruments? Are there rules around movement or going to the bathroom, etc.?
13) Is the use of tobacco or smoke used during ceremony? Can participants smoke (either in the circle or at a designated outdoor area?)
14) What other plants or medicines are used during ceremony?
15) Where does the medicine come from? What's in it, exactly? Who makes it? What connection does the shaman have to those who make the brew? Is there more than one kind of brew for the group? If so, how is it determined who gets what?
16) Do the shaman and attendants drink the brew?
17) What is the ceremony process? What time do people drink? Is it one by one or all at once? Do people come up to an altar or are they served in their space? Can participants drink more than once if needed? How many rounds are offered? Is their doctoring? If so, does everything receive this assistance? Does it happen at a central altar, or in the participant's physical space?
18) Are buckets provided for purging, or do participants bring their own? Are they responsible for cleaning them after ceremony? Is it OK / encouraged to dump out used buckets right after purge, or should people wait till after ceremony?
19) What is the referral process for interested friends and family?
20) How do they honor discretion? Do they ever advertise on Facebook or MeetUp or public places? (Don't laugh. Some circles do and it's appalling. Unless you're in Peru :))
21) What happens at the end of ceremony? How do people know it's over? Will there be fruit or snacks served? Is water or tea available? Is it OK to talk after ceremony? Does the shaman leave right away? Will someone be around in case there are people struggling?
22) Is there any after care or assistance with integration provided? What if someone struggles in the aftermath - can anyone assist and offer guidance?
23) What do they recommend in the aftermath? Should the diet be continued? If so, how long? What about sexual activity? Watching dark media? Drinking alcohol or using Marijuana or other drugs?
Time to Find Your Ceremony Home
I hope this helps you find your perfect circle to sit with! It's wild how many are popping up all over the world. If you are called to this work, Aya will find you. She's good like that. So trust that if you feel the desire to sit coming from the depths of your soul, the opportunity is manifesting - or has already.
If you have any more questions, reach out any time. It is my honor to make sure we get to do this work in a safe and loving space so it facilitates healing, not more trauma.