Gaia Sagrada, ayahuasca, Cuenca, Ecuador, Retreat, shaman

Ayahuasca Experience: When a Bucket is Your Best Friend

For the third time I am headed into the mountains outside Cuenca, Ecuador to the Gaia Sagrada Retreat Center to participate in an Ayahuasca Ceremony.

If you read my previous article you know I am a 73-year-old woman who first experienced any use of drugs after my retirement at 63.

Are you asking yourself why?  

Ayahuasca is a plant medicine. It heals the body on a physical and energetic level. Also I believe it is beneficial in helping heal or get rid of any and all past hurts you may have stored in your body. 

Some hurts may be as minor as someone making fun of you in your childhood; others may be as serious as abuse or abandonment. This is why I think younger participants get to experience wonderful insights and answers much sooner than people my age. They have less baggage to release.

Gaia Sagrada, ayahuasca, Cuenca, Ecuador, Retreat, shaman

Transportation has been arranged and at the airport I meet up with two first-time participants. Arriving at Gaia Sagrada it is was fun to see familiar faces of staff and work/stay personnel and to meet new ones. I am doing a five-day retreat at the end of the twelve-day retreat. 

After settling into my shared room I make my way down to the cottage where I meet many of the other participants. Interacting with these young people gives me hope for the future. They are bright and funny, and interested in healthy living and protecting the planet.

At 12:30 pm we enjoy a light lunch. The food is always a little bland because spices interfere with the Ayahuasca. This is the last food until after the ceremony.

While others head off to enjoy the Jacuzzi, a massage or a nap, I participate in a connection exercise. When it is time for the trust exercise I volunteer to go first. I am sure if I can do this then no one will back out.

Gaia Sagrada, ayahuasca, Cuenca, Ecuador, Retreat, malooka, shaman

We gather in the Malooka at 6:00 pm and get comfortable on thick pads with back jacks, pillows and blankets. 

As the fire is being built, the Shamans arrive — there are always two — and they begin to set up for the ceremony. Everyone makes a last run to the restroom and settles in. 

Gaia Sagrada, ayahuasca, Cuenca, Ecuador, Retreat, shaman

The Shaman speaks of the purpose of Ayahuasca and the importance of setting your intention. I always ask for physical healing, the opening of my heart and this time to show me my purpose for this stage of my life. 

I also ask for Mother Aya to help guide my missing kitty, Freda, home. She has been missing for three weeks.



Next, liquid tobacco is passed around. You snort this up your nose to open up your pineal gland. They also pass around toilet paper. 

The Shaman then pours you a portion of Ayahausca. It is not as nasty-tasting as most people make it out to be. This is followed by a slice of fruit to cut the taste. Now you sit or lay back and wait.

After about fifteen minutes the Ayahausca begins to take affect and the Shaman begins to play music or sing. As you are experiencing the Ayahausca this music seems to guide and intensify your journey.

My experiences with Ayahausca are not like any of the accounts I have read. Even though at times I have experienced body discomfort, my mind seems to be aware this is part of the healing process. 

Maybe twenty-five percent of the participants experience purging. This is when a bucket becomes your best friend. Even though your are totally engaged in your journey anyone would be hard pressed to take the bucket away from you. There is very little in your stomach to throw up. When I am purging I am aware of something negative being released from my body. At times I am so relaxed my mouth hangs open; sometime I feel very cold. 

As the first journey begins to ebb, the Shaman offers you another round of Ayahuasca, which you are free to decline. At around three in the morning the ceremony comes to an end and everyone begins to sit up. The Shaman pours water for each of us and speaks to the importance of water to the earth and us.

At the end of the evening we eat a light meal and are free to return to our room or sleep in the Malooka.

The following day we gather in a circle to share our experiences. I hear some amazing stories of insights received, old hurts healed and encounters with Mother Aya. 

My insights usually come after the fact. This time I was very aware of my body healing on a cellular level. While Salvador was singing one song it was as if some hands opened my heart. 

As I was awakening from my last journey the following come to me:

You are a dewdrop in a sunbeam

A spirit in the wind

Wandering this illusion

Until you are home again

P.S. I arrived home to find that my Freda had returned in the middle of the night. 

—Gertie Italiano


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