The cornerstone of ayahuasca healing is shadow work: healing deep-seated emotional and psychological issues by bringing awareness to and rewriting negative patterns in your subconscious mind and clearing your energetic system of dense energies.
An ayahuasca retreat at the Temple can be intense and often one of the most challenging yet ultimately rewarding experiences of your life. It could be considered “boot camp” Ayahuasca healing; it takes courage to face your shadow and to bring light to many painful aspects of yourself that have been suppressed and unresolved in your past.
Our shadow is everything inside us that we have disowned, avoided, and kept in the dark. We all turn away from pain at some stage in our lives, especially during our childhoods, yet whatever we have not processed gets relegated and hidden in our shadows.
Our shadow is where our life force gets trapped and is no longer available. It is energy that is not integrated with the rest of our being, akin to pieces of ourselves that have become compartmentalized, pushed aside, and treated as an unwanted child.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate – Carl Jung
Ayahuasca and the powerful shamanic practices of the Amazon help to release negative, fear-filled patterns that have built up over many years through a process of witnessing, integrating and releasing emotional traumas. This facilitates new perspectives on the overall biography of your life and the reasons for the various phases, difficulties and painful experiences.
Shadow work is the key to discovering a greater sense of purpose, presence and peace in your life.
What is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is counter-habitual; we turn towards pain, not away from pain. We access that place of pain within us and slowly bring it into the open, becoming acquainted and then intimate with it until the estranged pain is not a dreaded “it,” but a reclaimed “us.”
There is a well-known Sufi story about Mullah Nasr Id’n, out at night under a street lamp on his hands and knees, frantically searching.
A friend comes along and asks: “What are you doing?”
The Mullah replies: “I am searching for my keys”.
His friend asks: “You lost them under the light?”
The Mullah looks up, grinning and replies: “No, actually, I lost them over in those dark bushes by the door, but the light here is so much better for seeing.”
Ayahuasca healing is a journey to the heart of what matters – an opportunity to face and integrate our shadows, transmuting trapped energies and making them available for life-affirming purposes. The medicine helps us search for the keys where they have been lost – in the darkness.
True ayahuasca healing and shadow work can be challenging, requiring courage to face fears, determination, and commitment to your healing journey. Ayahuasca is also an amplifier that will bring to the surface patterns and programs that do not serve you.
Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug taken for entertainment, relaxation, or escapism. The medicine does not allow us to suppress issues and escape reality. Quite the opposite is typically the case. Ayahuasca compels us to face, resolve, and release issues that have been buried throughout our lives.
As pioneering psychologist Ralph Metzner, PhD states:
The fact that Westerners will seek out a foul-tasting jungle medicine in a faraway environment and culture, a medicine that frequently leads to violent purging and can include terrifying visions, is a remarkable paradox.
Our Ayahuasca healing (shadow work) at the Temple is a process of cleaning, clearing, and transforming trapped negative energies that hold you back in life, cause emotional distress, and create perpetual discomfort that often manifests as ‘dis-order’ and dis-ease’. Surrendering to the healing process is essential to cleansing and integrating painful memories, deeply embedded emotional blockages, energetic imprints, and self-limiting patterns.
It is the accumulation of energetic imprints, suppressed memories, blocked emotions, and fear-driven patterns, that prevent us from re-discovering our true selves and living a life filled with joy, abundance, and inner peace.
During and after the process, trust, courage, a strong will, the ability to surrender, deep commitment, and patience all significantly help facilitate and deepen your Ayahuasca healing journey. The results are highly beneficial with the end goal being realignment with our true nature – body, mind, heart and soul – and the reconnection with the physical and spiritual natural worlds.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it – Rumi
The Temple is deeply committed to providing long-lasting Ayahuasca healing. The ayahuasca / plant-spirit healing that we carry out is a process of spiritual/energetic surgery, unfolding over six ayahuasca ceremonies.
The majority of Ayahuasca healing work is carried out through the ikaros that are sung to each participant, by each healer, in each ayahuasca ceremony, complimented by plant and vapor baths, and plant remedies during the daytime throughout the retreat.
Some people have unrealistically high expectations of their first ayahuasca ceremonies. To see breathtaking visions at an early stage is rare, but they should not be the primary goal in any case. It is important to understand that an ayahuasca retreat at the Temple is focused on deep Ayahuasca healing and not ‘tripping’.
While it is not unusual not to experience any visions in your first ceremonies, persistence, patience and determination will often, yet not always, lead to more visionary states after you have carried out essential physical and emotional healing.
It is important to not set your expectations too high before a ceremony. This is captured by a saying that often emerges from retreats: You will always receive what you need, which isn’t always what you want.
The initial work is focused on cleansing and purifying your physical body to prepare you for the next stages. One quite reasonable expectation is that you will nearly always go through a strong purge often, but not always, with considerable vomiting and/or diarrhoea – hence ayahuasca being referred to as ‘La Purga’ in many parts of the Amazon.
When visions do occur, it is common to see a proliferation of colors, lights, geometric patterns and animals. These are somewhat peripheral to the shadow work: the more profound Ayahuasca healing is taking place on deeper levels, and insights and understandings about the world and universe around you will typically arise from within, not outside of yourself.
That said, it is impossible to outline exactly what will happen on your inner journeys. Everyone is different and no ceremony is ever the same as another. Even the most experienced ayahuasca drinker cannot predict what direction their visions will take. However, there often seems to be a sense of a “course” (in the educational sense) or trajectory being followed, when one looks back over a series of ceremonies.
Eventually, incredibly vivid visions may come to you – often revealing profound knowledge about your place in the universe, the plant and animal kingdoms, and perhaps even revealing life in other dimensions and galaxies. After considerable work, the spirits of the plants (the ibo in Shipibo) or sometimes ancient shamans (Meraya) in their spirit form may reveal themselves to you.
Working with ayahuasca is very complex, and the medicine will typically work with you in ways you cannot anticipate, and will not respond to impatient demands. Sometimes, when you are in the process of cleansing and purifying your emotions, your mood can become low. Like any cleanse, it is common to feel worse during deep shadow work before feeling better.
True healing isn’t about feeling better, but better feeling.
One of the keys to the liberation of our shadow material is the unfamiliar motion of turning into, not away from, our discomfort. Allowing difficult feelings and emotions to surface, accepting them, integrating them and then releasing them is an indispensable part of the healing process.
Ayahuasca Healing Stages of an Retreat at the Temple
All of the following Ayahuasca healing stages are part of a spiritual surgical process that is carried out with deep intention and precision, unfolding over an arc of six ceremonies:
- See and connect: in the first ceremony, the healers focus on finding and identifying where blocked energies are located in the system of each participant. We could call this the ‘diagnostic’ stage.
- Clean and clear: during ceremonies two to four, the healing process is focused on cleansing heavy, negative energies and clearing fear-based thought patterns. This process usually spans three to four ceremonies.
- Aligning: the healers then realign your energetic architecture (body, heart and mind), reintegrate your soul, and reconnect you with the natural world.
- Open a path forwards: then towards the end of the retreat, they sing specific ikaros to sow seeds of positivity that will grow throughout your life, to protect the healing work, and to illuminate your path forwards.
We would not be able to fulfill this commitment in any less than 6 ayahuasca ceremonies led by the Onanyabo over 12 days.
Deep Ayahuasca Healing is a Long-Term Process
Ayahuasca healing and the plant spirits is a journey and not a one-off event. Shadow work is a lifetime process. A retreat at the Temple initiates a much longer commitment to healing, integration, and increasing awareness. After leaving the Temple, it is necessary to process and integrate the Ayahuasca healing and lessons learned during the retreat into day-to-day life.
Ayahuasca Healing is a “two-way street” – you are not a passive recipient of healing but an active and willing partner. The significant Ayahuasca healing that can be achieved from taking part in a retreat is the beginning of a much longer process that can accelerate one’s spiritual development and re-awakening.
Before booking a retreat at the Temple, you must be fully and passionately dedicated to changing your life. You will typically be returning after retreat with an increased level of awareness and you must understand what this entails.
Having an increased level of consciousness means you become more aware of patterns and beliefs that no longer serve you and that which is no longer beneficial in your life. You will be presented with ongoing choices to change various aspects of your life with increased awareness, moving away from charged reactions and towards consciously responding to life. You must be resolutely prepared to commit over the long term to your integration process after retreat. It requires much patience to carry out true, deep shadow work!
When working with ayahuasca, it is important to not hold on to expectations. Shadow work, Ayahuasca healing and transformation often unfold differently from what we expect them to look like. We tend to avoid painful experiences we think of as negative, to shy away from situations that may be hurtful, and to suppress our real feelings.
Our heart can only come to our aid if, instead of running from what we dislike, we become fully present with what we are experiencing during our Ayahuasca healing process. When we accept the unacceptable instead of pushing it away, we discover that the flip side of psychological and emotional pain is personal growth – and that our pain is simply our healing wanting to break through.
You get what you need, which isn’t always what you want.
It is important to understand that deep Ayahuasca healing can be challenging. You will be embarking on a journey into the unknown, which ultimately is a journey into yourself. Ayahuasca typically reflects only what is contained within – your emotions, pain, patterns, programs, and fears.
Working with ayahuasca is, in many ways, a powerful system of shadow work and requires a long-term commitment to emotional development and mastery. It is a challenging yet exponentially rewarding process if we stay committed.