The Importance of Experienced Facilitators
One of the keys to facilitating the most effective healing process is the combination of skilled and well-intentioned healers with experienced and highly trained facilitators. By creating a reassuring atmosphere of safety, support, compassion and trust on the physical level throughout our ayahuasca retreats, facilitators carry out a vital role supporting the healing process that is being directed on an energetic level by ayahuasca, the plant spirits and the healers.
Most of our guests experience an emotional and psychological rollercoaster ride throughout an ayahuasca retreat and our experienced facilitators are on-hand, when necessary, to guide integration during the day following a nighttime ceremony. The healers, who are focused on cleansing, clearing and illuminating participants during the nighttime ceremonies, sometimes also carry out additional healing practices during the day.
Ayahuasca activates an innate healing intelligence that brings to the surface images, memories, feelings, emotions and experiences in order for the individual to work through trauma, imbalance and dysfunction. Shadow material will emerge from the deep subconscious/unconscious and knowing how to, or how not to, face this material is one of the keys to healing and lasting transformation.
Skilled facilitators are able to gently encourage guests to not shrink from difficult experiences but to face, witness or explore them. They help our guests understand how to work with difficult emotions, handle projections and surrender to the process. Based on their own experience of the healing journey, the facilitators pass on their knowledge of the importance of letting go of expectations and dropping the need to analyze the healing process, as well as how to work through mental confusion. In short, how to remove the obstacles that block our inner healing intelligence and overall healing process.
Ayahuasca healing can also sometimes temporarily induce anxiety, paranoia or panic, which in unsupervised and inexperienced settings can escalate into accidental injuries. Experienced facilitators can recognize the symptoms of issues before they arise and often are able to address underlying fears before they escalate.
Facilitators are able to inspire and motivate people in ways that healers cannot, through one-on-one sessions and group sharings. With fluent communication vital to mutual understanding between guest and facilitator, all retreats are facilitated in English. Our bilingual facilitators also act as translators between our healers and guests.
Amazonian Healers are Not Therapists
Many Westerners come to ayahuasca to heal issues from difficult, traumatic, abusive or broken childhoods. Good healers are like master surgeons who cleanse the energies that have been trapped from these experiences but they are not therapists and are typically not able to provide much therapeutic support to participants during the daytime as they process their emotions.
However, the Temple healers can provide much energetic support during daytime difficulties and offer a range of treatments (using tobacco, vapor baths, floral baths, ikaros, chupadas and massage) to alleviate acute healing crises.
Although healing with ayahuasca is profoundly therapeutic, a mistake often made by guests is seeking answers on a verbal level from the healers. While healers are happy to offer their advice, this is not their role or typically within their capability. Their work is primarily with energy and they do not generally provide much verbal guidance in terms of navigating through difficult emotions.
Amazonian healers have learned to survive in harsh physical conditions, although their childhoods are often very different to many broken households in the West. Parental and family abuse is much less common in the Amazon. They come from extended families and communities that are generally highly supportive of each other in contrast to Western families. They also have an entirely different worldview and cosmology.
One of the challenges of Westerners seeking healing in the Amazon is bridging a tradition rooted in shamanic communities with the culture of origin of our guests.
All the Temple’s facilitators are from the West and so are able to relate to guests’ emotional issues. They have been raised in the same environment, had the same overall cultural background and have often faced similar issues. Although they are not healers (but may be apprentices), effective facilitators have many years of personal experience with ayahuasca and ‘walk their talk’. Through having faced and integrated their own traumas, they are able to share their personal experiences, in English, to help guide others through the same process.
Without facilitators who have been through many years of overcoming personal challenges, the more serious healing cases would sometimes not have sufficient ‘therapeutic’ one-on-one support during the process.
There are no gurus and should be no preaching in true ayahuasca shamanism.
Finally, some people perceive Amazonian healers as ‘enlightened beings’. They are not. True Amazonian healers are highly skilled doctors working with plant spirits and experts in moving energies, but they are not fully realized and awakened spiritual masters. Therefore, they are not able to offer spiritual counsel.
Ayahuasca healing ultimately initiates a process of self-discovery, self-awakening, and self-love. The approach of the Temple is always to gently guide our guests to find their own answers from within, not from the healers or the facilitators.