By Silvia Polivoy Ph.D
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Why do thousands of people go every year to Brazil or Peru to experience ayahuasca?
Can this magical potion of the Amazon forest help you visit other dimensions? Or help you communicate with other forms of life?
Sound too fantastic to be true? Must be dangerous! Could it drive me crazy?
Seeking Higher Consciousness with Ayahuasca
The human being shows a remarkable disposition to seek spiritual transcendence. Our spiritual experiences are associated with the occurrence of modified states of consciousness.
Since the irrational cannot be erased from the human mind, the harder we try to deny it, the greater the power it will exert upon us. Yet the society we live in considers modified states of consciousness (as opposed to shamanic knowledge) to be onanistic and vicious.
Shamans argue that to satisfy our religious drive we have to experience the divine, and in order to achieve that, they use sacred plants. Abraham Maslow called these types of experiences, “peak experiences”. But they are not limited to the altered states achieved through drugs or sacred plants. They can take place during meditation, hyperventilation, the practice of yoga, hypnosis, fasting, physical suffering (such as the self-inflicted pain some saints underwent or the postures certain yogis kept for months, etc). In short, it is a state that can be reached in many ways and, once there, we can explore aspects of reality which are different from those perceived in an ordinary state of consciousness. These different aspects of reality are well studied.
Some psychoactive substances resemble (and sometimes are identical to) substances normally produced by the human brain like DMT active ingredient of the ayahuasca brew. Therefore, the individual has a built-in capacity to experiment psychedelic states, which are inherent to certain aspects of the human mind inaccessible during wakefulness mostly. So, under the appropriate circumstances, these substances allow the individual (for a limited period of time) to gain access to deeper parts of his psyche.
Transpersonal Psychology blends science with the study of the spiritual capabilities of man using methods to modify these states of consciousness, because the spiritual phenomena associated with them seem to be incomprehensible in an ordinary state of consciousness. A mental set and physical setting play an important role in the overall ayahuasca experience. It is vital to be in a safe environment and with experienced facilitator. The diet is essential because many foods and medicines are contraindicated with ayahuasca.
Risks and Benefits
Facing the Shadow
Modified states of consciousness may have a dangerous side because, since they affect the defence mechanisms of the individual, they may pave the way for our ‘shadow’, the unacceptable, repressed material from the individual’s past, to make its way to the conscious mind and cause restlessness, which could rise to terrifying levels, if the individual is unable to cope with his or her anxiety (this is what is usually known as a “bad trip”).
In our retreats, after being approved through the application process, an detailed interview with candidates is absolutely necessary before the intake of ayahuasca. During the experience it is equally important candidates surrender to whatever content appears and to be able to discriminate what comes from the outside from what comes from the inside. That is why experience such modified states of consciousness through ayahuasca should always be under the supervision of qualified, well trained professionals.
Finding God Within
The spiritual experiences through modified states of consciousness and the emergence of the unconscious repressed material may involve potential risks; however the benefits are too valuable to be ignored. Once the defence mechanism is weakened the unwanted patterns of behaviour can be noticed and consequently acted upon. That’s why it’s worth taking the risk, because to have all this content repressed in our dark side or in our unconscious mind, is like a ticking time bomb. Once we release this content into the light of awareness the potential danger or the unconscious behaviour stops. In other words, if inside of me I have another part of me sabotaging my life, I will be able to see this part of myself in an amplified way and once exposed it might lose its power.
One of the main benefits of ayahuasca is to spot the individual’s conditioning and the possibility of rebuilding it later by dissolving momentarily the limits of the ego, to expand the inner vision, to be more lucid and mindful, obtaining in this fashion very important insights. In short, to be able to recognise the forces and impulses behind the individual’s actions and emotions, so as to track thoughts back to their source and therefore be in control of one’s life. Which is why they may help the individual to eventually become in tune with one’s essence. In other words, to become more authentic.
Likewise through dreams, we get in touch with those aspects of our personality which are hidden from the conscious mind. Ayahuasca tea helps to reach those states that we experience while dreaming or while in the middle of those rare, ecstatic epiphanies that can happen while we are awake. Unlike most drugs, ayahuasca does not produce physical dependence.
On top of all that you may experience the ‘god inside’; a connection with source. To have this experience of oneness it doesn’t matter if you are religious or if you don’t believe in spirits. That is why ayahuasca is called a sacred plant or entheogen (entheos = god within).
Modern physics teaches us about the universe’s interconnectedness, in which consciousness plays a role much closer to the one described by the great mystics. Transcending the ego allows us to see our life from the above, to detach from the little egotistic problems and see our life from a wider perspective and in a more meaningful way. Transcending the ego is the beginning of freedom.
The SpiritVine Retreat
The SpiritVine Retreat Centre is located in 39 acre of luscious jungle on the Atlantic coast of Bahia, Brazil. We make our own ayahuasca brew with plants growing in our land, and everything here is organic, including vegetables and exotic fruits. We also have a well for pure drinking water.
Our retreats were designed with the best of our modern world’s comforts, technologies, science, internet and the best of the old world’s indigenous knowledge of the plant kingdom as intelligent beings, and especially the wonders of nature. But the main focus that makes all the difference in these retreats is the special emphasis on the reconnection with our own power, re-establishing our potential resources that were blocked by old traumas.
Our retreats include workshops that are carefully developed to give participants an immersive experience in spiritual development, from a range of different modalities. These modalities are designed to integrate all the information and insights coming from the ayahuasca experience. Special guests are regularly invited to present and facilitate workshops during retreats in their respective fields.
Depending on which facilitator has been invited, the workshops may include subjects such us:
– Realigning with your higher self
– Meeting your inner child
– Introduction to shamanic sacred plants
– Past life regression
– Future life progression
– Parallel realities
– Dream work
– Visionary art explorations
– Yoga classes
– Out of body yoga
– Guided meditations / visualisations
– Hemi-sync mind machine relaxation
– Interactive biofeedback “Wild Divine”
– Group sharing
– Documentaries and multimedia presentations
Spirit Vine Retreats are run on a monthly basis with 7 or 9 day retreats.
For more information and dates of the retreats, please visit: www.spiritvine.net
About the author:
Silvia Polivoy Ph.D is a psychologist who graduated from Belgrano University of Buenos Aires in 1983, with a Master’s degree in clinical psychology. She has intensive training in transactional and transpersonal therapies, drug abuse rehabilitation and past life regressions. Silvia has carried out field research on psychoactive mushrooms in Mexico with Mazatec shamans, as well as worked extensively in Brazil with ayahuasca and in the Peruvian Amazon. She was also trained in shamanism in the ritual use of ayahuasca.
Since 1997 she’s been hosting ayahuasca retreats in the Peruvian Amazon and nowadays in Brazil where she co-founded the spiritual retreat centre “TheVine” in Bahia. Silvia’s current retreats don’t treat illness nor are they psychotherapeutic. Instead, they focus on spiritual development, communication with one’s higher self or source and the reconnection with our power within through the use of ayahuasca and meditation.