Journeying with Mother Aya, as well as other entheogens such as iboga, psilocybin, and Bufo alvarius, has become a mainstream and accepted way to transform one’s life. These medicines are so powerful they are said to “reset” your brain or “wipe your hard drive clean,” giving you a new lease on life.
When all other traditionally accepted Western mental health treatments have failed to bring relief or resolution from whichever flavor of darkness resides within you, working with plant medicines are the last stop on the train to real healing. When all else fails, we run to Mother Aya to help us.
While preparing for my ninth and tenth ceremonies with Mother Aya, I could not help but think and feel that putting all of the healing responsibility on this great plant Spirit was awfully irresponsible of me. She must be overwhelmed and tired by this point. So many people from all over the world are looking to her for healing…what an arduous task.
Additionally, I began feeling I was giving away my personal power and putting the responsibility of healing myself on an outside entity.
In the personal development world, we are told not to depend on others for our salvation or self-worth. For example, seeking approval from others to validate our self-worth or turning to substances to find relief from our stressors are considered codependent. Therefore, putting the onus on Mother Aya to fix me felt quite the same.
I wanted to take my healing into my own hands. I felt the need to be more of an active participant when peeling off my wounded layers. I did not want to simply whisper an intention into the brown juice and hope that Mother Aya would throw me a bone granting me healing for the issues still lodged deep within me. I wanted to help Mother Aya help me, so I decided to help her out.
This time, I decided to do what I call a “Trauma Dieta.” The Trauma Dieta is meant to accompany the traditional ayahuasca dieta one undergoes before participating in ceremonies. The traditional ayahuasca dieta consists of not consuming sugar, salt, pork, spicy foods, illicit drugs and sex, which is practiced weeks before participating in the ceremonies. Adding the Trauma Dieta to this regimen seemed like a logical next step.
Dietas are used to purify the system both biologically and ethereally. Aside from being preparation before participating in the ayahuasca ceremony, doing the dieta is an offering to respectfully and humbly allow the necessary space for the spirit of Mother Aya to work her magic.
The idea of the Trauma Dieta is similar to the traditional dieta, that is, to help clear the system of psychic and emotional impurities and to open a space for healing. The purpose of the Trauma Dieta is to confront old pain, shame and trauma. This is the first step to letting it all go.
Just as our friend Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, has taught us, I began with a fearless moral inventory of all that has increasingly become dark and heavy within me. Emotions and memories of events that I had repressed, ignored, and swept under the rug were about to see the light of day.
First, I physically made a list. I wrote as much of the trauma, pain, and shame that I was aware of, the interior baggage that was still a thorn in my paw. Then, I made another list. These were things I tried to forget about over the years, things I just didn’t like to think about.
Second, I wrote down each individual traumatic event on a Post-it note and stuck each one to my wall. There they were, set in front of my face, each occupying its own light. There before me were events, even from as long as 28 years ago, that I couldn’t even bear to write down, let alone look at the words written in black Sharpie on a hot pink Post-it note.
Third, I looked at the Post-it notes daily for the 26 days preceding the ceremonies.
Fourth, one by one, I began to replace the shame, disgust and regret I felt towards these events with a deep compassion for that version of me who experienced those events. I let compassion seep in the best that I could. When I was able to look at an event on the Post-it note with compassion instead of disdain I did the following:
*I thanked it for all that it has taught me and how I have grown from it.
*I removed it from the wall and threw it in the garbage.
*Then, I let it go in my heart and in my mind.
Some days, this process was easier than others.
The reason why this work is so important before the ceremony is because it is very important to be clear on what changes you need and want to make after the ayahuasca ceremony and during the integration process.
When levels of acceptance, responsibility, and forgiveness are established inside of yourself, you are actively processing these events. This may be for the first time, or the hundredth time.
For example, if you have had traumatic events in your life and have carried emotional and psychic pain from these, Mother Aya may connect you to the divine and give you an uber-dose of unconditional love — resulting in feeling intense love, oneness, and newness. Awesome!
But feeling better is not healing.
That is only the beginning. The next step for successful integration in your life is to see how the trauma has shaped you, then take conscious steps in your life not to fall back into old habits, unconscious patterns and unhelpful coping skills. Perhaps due to your trauma, you have isolated yourself from friends and family and have become withdrawn.
Be aware of that during the integration process. Begin to make a conscious choice to reconnect with people and come out of your shell. Become aware of the negative self-talk that has dictated the noise in your head and consciously rewrite your internal dialogue during the integration process. Lastly, become aware of triggers that have led you to seek solace in unhealthy habits or even substance abuse. End harmful, toxic relationships, explore new employment opportunities and allow yourself to start a new chapter in your life.
Mother Aya will not stop you from picking up that drink when you get back home but she will give you a clearer vision and elevated level of awareness to help you make a different choice. But the choice is ultimately yours.
Participating in ayahuasca ceremonies is not a one-shot deal to heal. It is really an equation: Inner work and awareness plus ayahuasca equals inner work and change. It is this equation that leads to transformation.
Please do not expect to drink the brown juice and be cured, then jump back into your life, status quo.
Healing of held trauma is a slow process. We never want to just rip the band aid off, so to speak. That way, integration is a chance to reframe your life through the lens of post traumatic growth.
What did you learn from these painful experiences? Who did you become because of those traumatic events, good or bad? Did the trauma alchemize you into a better version of yourself? How? Why, why not? By asking these questions, you may even get some answers. Hopefully, you will be able to go even deeper if and when you decide to drink again. But be assured, the love you received from Mother Aya will help you ascend during this inner process of alchemy.
Now, you have a direction for your integration. Missions to accomplish. Ultimately, we are the medicine, and what we put into the totality of the experience, we will get out of the experience. So, as they say, if you see a staircase during your journey, climb it. If you see a door during your journey, open it, and walk right through.
***The Trauma Dieta is not meant to be a substitute for professional therapy. If you are thinking of working with plant medicines, please find a therapist or integration coach who can help you work with your trauma before participating in ceremonies. Therapies such as EMDR, somatic experiencing and breathwork are great ways to process trauma with a professional.
This essay was intended to provide a creative lens for you to frame your plant medicine experience from preparation to integration. Always seek the professional help necessary when working with trauma and plant medicines.