1heart’s Expansive Guide to Ayahuasca Preparation For Beginners (or Anyone)

Image this, you’ve drank your first cup of ayahuasca, you’re back at your seat, and you’re hit with a profound and sudden realization… you forgot your favorite stuffed animal.

Ayahuasca preparation can help ensure you don’t manifest this vision. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into ayahuasca prep than bringing your empowering altar items. Things like intention setting, pre-work prompts, recommended resources, the ayahuasca diet, and the power of community and collective commitment can act as bricks you place to create a smoother, stronger walk with Grandmother Ayahuasca.

Ignore, disrespect, or write off how to prepare for ayahuasca and you’ll only make an already challenging experience much, much harder. 

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself. —Abraham H. Maslow

 

We’ve led over 500 change-makers, creators, and leaders on 15 Journeys for the last five years. And to our knowledge, 1heart is the only organization providing a fully interactive and personal program pre-Journey to ensure you are completely supported. 

So we’re sharing parts of our world-class preparation process with you to support you in having the most powerful, transformative experience possible, whether you sit at our all-inclusive ayahuasca retreat or a Peruvian ayahuasca retreat deep in the jungles. 

A Quick Note on Saftey

While we cover the importance of feeling safe in a communal sense later, we wanted to touch on how pre-journey safety is one of the most important things to do as you prepare for ayahuasca. 

It takes a high degree of courage to drink a cup of the ayahuasca brew. The physical, psychological, energetic, and spiritual work that a person opens up to and feels ready to sit with in an ayahuasca ceremony is not for the faint of heart. 

And when the ayahuasca experience feels intense, overwhelming, or incredibly challenging, feeling safe allows a person to surrender into their experience. Feeling held, supported, and safe within the physical environment, by the ceremony leaders, and with those around you is a crucial element for your physical, emotional, and spiritual preparation. 

If you don’t feel safe, it will be harder to surrender to the teachings, healings, and blessings ayahuasca can offer you, but your experience may have a darker and maybe even more dangerous tint to it. 

Not all ayahuasca ceremonies have a participant’s best interest in mind or at heart. Some facilitators will be indifferent to you and your experience. They’re there to serve medicine, and however, a person responds to the medicine isn’t their problem. Worse still are people in positions of power that look to take advantage of, manipulate, or harm travelers and participants. 

Don’t ignore those signals if you feel off about the facilitators or setting. Your intuition is picking up on things you need to know about. You have a lifetime to sit with ayahuasca in a space that sees, holds, and supports you. There’s no need to rush into a ceremony that might compromise your safety and well-being. 

 

modern plant medicine campuses make ayahuasca preparation a less stressful experience

To find truly healing and supportive ayahuasca healing centers, look for places that are open and upfront about their reviews. If you know of someone, digitally or physically, who has sat with a certain organization, connect with them about their experience. 

If you’re going on an ayahuasca retreat, understand what you need to feel safe during this journey. Ask yourself things like:

  • Will I feel more comfortable with a small or large group?
  • Am I okay sitting deep in the jungles, or would I prefer a more modern setting that doesn’t require as many travel logistics?
  • What type of lodging will allow me to rest comfortably after a powerful ayahuasca ceremony? 
  • What types of amenities, like massages or a gym, would I like to have to support my process? 

At 1heart, your safety and the collective safety of each group are one of our top priorities. And we support each participant every step of the way, from the ayahuasca preparation process we create two weeks before everyone meets in Costa Rica to the five weeks of integration masterclasses to support and cement your breakthroughs in your day-to-day. 

Pre-Work Exercises to Expand Your Awareness

1heart Journeys are designed to create powerful, profound growth experiences in beautiful retreat environments amongst an inspiring group of your peers. And your ayahuasca preparation lays the foundation to build a life-changing journey that can last a lifetime. 

It’s often said that your journey begins as soon as you commit to the medicine. As you get closer, you may start to feel a bit different, notice some unusual synchronicities, and things that are ready for a change in your life may become clearer. Take advantage of this time before you find yourself in an ayahuasca ceremony; doing a little bit of work here can go a long way.

ayahuasca preparation is all about being safe and held

The more awareness you have of what is really driving your life prior to our week together, the more productive your work there will be.

We offer every 1heart Journeyer an exercise we call The Seven. We’ve put together seven prompts bound to probe the driving forces of your life. And by bringing these to light, you can begin the work of releasing self-limiting beliefs and the grip of your inner critic while realizing your passions, visions, and values, all before drinking a cup of Mother Ayahuasca.  

Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate. – Carl Jung

 

As you prepare for ayahuasca and you aren’t given pre-work exercises, find time to sit with yourself and ask yourself hard questions and be able, to be honest with yourself. Maybe you write them out. Maybe you record yourself instead. Regardless of how you do it, ensure you’re coming in with some mental clarity, emotional honesty, and psychological centeredness. This will support your ayahuasca experience tremendously.

 

Basic Ayahuasca Preparation for Your Ayahuasca Ceremony 

Before we dive into the rest of ayahuasca prep, like intention setting, the (in)famous ayahuasca diet, and the power community and safety can play in your preparation process, we want to quickly cover some basic or general things on someone’s mind as they prepare for ayahuasca. 

What should I pack for my ayahuasca experience?

  • A water bottle
    • Most places have drinkable water, but it’s best to have some spare agua 
  • Valuable, priceless memorabilia 
    • Make sure to bring any grounding, special, or meaningful items with you to create a mini altar that can bring you back to center, offer protection, or remind you of all your worth
  • A journal
    • If you write or draw, being able to capture anything you received during your ayahuasca experience can be helpful in cementing, releasing, or reliving whatever arose during these powerful times
  • Tobacco
    • If you have experience using tobacco, like mapacho or rapé, these can be powerful allies to accompany you in your ayahuasca journey
  • Socks 
    • Your feet might get cold due to the temperature fluctuations commonly associated with ayahuasca, and there’s nothing like a warm pair of socks should that time come
  • Layers
    • As we shared, drastic changes to your body temperature are common with ayahuasca, so make sure you’re prepared if you feel too hot or too cold
  • Hair ties or headbands
    • For you ladies and gentlemen with long hair, being able to keep your luscious locks contained when the purge kicks in is liberating
  • Chapstick
    • This one’s self-explanatory
  • Essential oils
    • Lavender, tea tree, frankincense, peppermint, etc. 
    • However, make sure you check in with the facilitators to make sure using these in ceremony is okay, as it can be triggering for some people and not allowed for that reason
  • Aura clearing liquids
    • If you haven’t used agua de florida or rose water during your ayahuasca experience, you might be shrugging or laughing this one off
    • But when you need a moment, an opportunity to reset or refresh or a way to break a psychological loop or energetic barrier, these refreshing aura clearing products will become powerful allies to support your healing process

 

small altars are popular ways to prepare for an ayahuasca ceremony

What are things I can know or expect to have a powerful ayahuasca experience? 

  • Most places will provide the following for your ceremony: 
    • A yoga mat or mattress for you to rest on 
    • A bucket when La Purga reminds you why she was gifted that nickname
    • A warm or cozy blanket to accompany you
    • A pillow to rest with or sit on
    • Toilet paper (although it’s not a bad idea to pack your own, just in case)
  • The taste of ayahuasca isn’t great, or good, for that matter. But, the tea is effective
  • Physical purging happens in many forms, and it’s best not to fight whatever form it takes
    • Common purges include vomiting, shaking, laughing, crying, feeling hot or cold, diarrhea or defecating, or yawning
    • When it’s time to purge, don’t fight whatever’s coming through. Let out whatever needs to come out; you’ll be much better for it
  • Purging happens on an energetic level, so even if you don’t physically purge, trust that you’re releasing stuck energy and old patterns even if you can’t see it being released
    • Some people purge right away. Others won’t purge much later in their journey
    • Be patient. Ayahuasca isn’t known as La Purga for nothing

 

While we’ve listed dozens of things you can know about or pack to support your experience, none is more important than bringing an open mind and an open heart. At the risk of sounding cliche, you’ll be grateful for your ability to surrender and be open when the ayahuasca comes knocking at your door.

 

organizations usually prepare for ayahuasca by providing certain items, like mattress and buckets

Our Recommended Resources That Support Important Themes

 

There are many places to sit and work with ayahuasca. This means there’s a good chance you’ll find an organization that feels aligned with your values, mission, vision, cosmology, and so on. 

However, there are some core themes underpinning almost all ayahuasca ceremonies. While not every ceremony or their leaders will embody these themes, some values we believe are instrumental to a lasting, positive ayahuasca experience could be: 

  • Love
  • Surrender
  • Integrity
  • Reverence
  • Community
  • Discipline
  • Gratitude
  • Connection
  • Reciprocity

The resources we’ll provide below to prepare for ayahuasca embody a few of these values. And while not every resource speaks to ayahuasca directly, each shares a message of growth, healing, accountability, compassion, connection, co-evolution, and self-development. 

Books:

Podcasts:

Youtube Videos:

Articles:

Intention Setting:

Gaining clarity on your intentions for your Journey will also help to focus your experience in areas that are of most importance to you. While you cannot and should not try to control your experience or have strong expectations, setting powerful intentions can greatly support you.

Setting strong intentions is one of the most important parts of getting the most out of your Journey. Intentions help clarify what you want to receive and learn on your Journey. The more clarity you have, the more clear Grandmother Ayahuasca can guide your Journey.

Here are some fire starters to support you in clarifying and coming to your intention(s):

  • Why are you going on this Journey?
  • What do you hope to learn, receive, or discover?
  • What awareness do you hope to acquire?
  • What obstacles and/or fears are currently getting in the way of you operating from your highest self?
  • What relationships do you hope to improve?
  • Who/what can you forgive? (including/especially yourself)
  • What does a major breakthrough or miracle look like for you?

 

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

 

brandon's ayahuasca preparation pep talk to j15

And remember, the medicine and spirit of ayahuasca gives us what we need, not what we want. So as important as intentions are, don’t expect always to receive an answer. And often times, responses to intentions don’t arrive until months after your journey, or they don’t take the form of what you expect to receive. 

No matter your intentions, do your best to remain open to where ayahuasca will take you. By white-knuckling your intention, you’re trying to control the experience. And by doing so, you’re inviting a more challenging time than if you let go. Ayahuasca is a medicine that teaches us to surrender. 

So trust that you’ve done your work by fortifying a clear, honest intention, and if you can, set your intention aside and trust that ayahuasca will give you exactly what you need when you need it. If what you need resonates with your intention, great. If it doesn’t, being able to let go and surrender to receive something you weren’t expecting can teach you powerful lessons that may support you for a lifetime. 

Detailed Ayahuasca Dieta Guide: 

The ayahuasca diet helps cleanse your physical and energetic bodies so that the medicine has less cleansing it needs to do and can instead get to work more quickly.

 

The timeline of a dieta:

  • Your dieta should ideally begin 14 days before your first ceremony
  • At a minimum, the dieta should last seven days before your Journey 

The science of the dieta and anti-depressants:

  • The ayahuasca vine contains a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) that allows the medicine to work. However, some foods contain high amounts of the amino acid tyramine, which is processed by the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO). 
  • This absence of MAO prevents the body from processing tyramine, so it’s important to refrain from eating foods high in this amino acid — otherwise your body could reach high levels of tyramine that cause headaches or hypertension. 
  • Currently, you should not be on any anti-depressants, including MAOIs and SSRIs. If you are or recently have been on any of these medications, please be sure to let us know immediately. 

The spirit of the dieta:

  • Showing up for your ayahuasca diet shows respect for the medicine and the powerful work you plan to do. It’s important to show that you are serious about what you want and willing to honor your body and the medicine to make it happen
  • If you don’t adhere to any of these, our medicine team can refuse to serve you medicine for our ceremony, and you will not be refunded. 

The sooner you can begin, like a month prior, for example, the more you can clear from your body and mind. 

Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food – Hippocrates

 

While on the dieta you should eliminate foods containing tyramine for health reasons.

Some foods that contain tyramine include:

  • Red meat and especially pork
  • Any dairy items, especially yogurt and aged cheeses
  • Fermented food (includes pickles, kombucha, tempeh, some tofu)
  • Overripe fruits (including overripe bananas and avocados)
  • Any packaged or preserved foods
  • Liquid and powder protein supplements
  • Brewer’s yeast and yeast supplements
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate in large quantities
  • Peanuts in large quantities

 

Also, while on the dieta, you should eliminate certain foods and actions that are physically, mentally, and spiritually impure for the medicine to work most powerfully with your energy. Such foods, supplements, and activities include:

  • Sexual activity (including the solo variety)
  • Recreational drugs (including marijuana)
  • Prescription drugs (check with facilitators on what’s okay and what isn’t)
  • High blood pressure medicine
  • Fried foods or excessive oil
  • Caffeine (especially coffee)
  • Canned or packaged meat or fish products
  • Processed foods, sweets, and refined sugar
  • Excessively salty and spicy foods
  • Engaging energetically with people who may trigger you or not serve your highest self
  • Reading the news, which is often sensational, triggering, or stressful

 

Committing to a dieta is not easy. Putting constraints on your lifestyle invites a different degree of discipline. And, as you remove certain habits from your normal routine, you may notice the underlying conditioning that drives these routines to arise. And while it’s not always pretty, it can be very powerful. 

As you start to say no to things you didn’t think twice about, you’ll get to see why you were reaching for your phone to scroll or grab that delicious but unhealthy snack aimlessly. As you bring an unconscious habit to light, you now get to make a choice. Do you do what you’ve always done because that’s what you do, or can you take back control and say no?  

And as the author, futurist, filmmaker, fashion designer, and lead pastor at Mosaic, Erwin McManus said, “the most spiritual thing we can do is to choose.” Whether you choose to commit to the dieta will be known, felt, and observed not only by you but by the spirit of ayahuasca when the time comes to drink the medicine. By showing up for yourself in these challenging times, you’re also showing up for those you’ll be in ceremony with and for ayahuasca. So do yourself a favor and remained committed to the ayahuasca diet. You will be deeply grateful you did. 

Community and Connection – The Immeasurable Power of Each Other

If you find yourself in a one-off ayahuasca ceremony, like one held at La Pacha in Pisac, Peru, it will be tougher to connect with those you’ll sit with. While there will be a little time before and after the ceremony, creating space and opportunities to cement a bond isn’t something these types of organizations focus on. 

The same holds true for some ayahuasca retreats too. However, there are numerous organizations, like 1heart, that place a high degree of intentional emphasis on cultivating a real sense of community. 

In certain ayahuasca retreats, anyone who meets the basic psychological and physical conditions has the green light to participate in their retreat centers. But at 1heart, we take it a step further by interviewing each potential participant before inviting them to join a Journey. 

tim preparing for ayahuasca by singing to the group

Community is an important piece of ayahuasca prep because when it comes to intention setting or sharing and the (in)famous ayahuasca diet, you’ll want to feel safe and supported when the going gets tough. Talking to someone in a similar position as you about your struggles, nerves, or uncertainties can provide a level of trust and safety to remind you that you’ve got this.

At 1heart, we create breakout groups led by Elevation Leaders. These small groups of about ten people are led by alumni of 1heart. We create these to allow deep, personal, and vulnerable conversations in a smaller setting before arriving on our collective Journey. While we also bring everyone together multiple times, the intimacy of a small group allows each person to be seen, heard, and feel safe opening themselves up. 

And by preparing for ayahuasca in a communal sense, there’s a natural distribution of collective commitment and accountability. In our communities, we each support one another, no matter where another person or we find ourselves. We’re all going through our own process, and the support we need takes different forms. 

When the going gets tough as a person cuts out coffee or sleeping meds for the first time in years, for example, these constraints test their limits and ability to control temptations. We encourage people to share those hard moments, to make them real, and get them out there. There’s no shame in struggling with the dieta. Or having only one or what feels like 100 intentions for your ayahuasca experience. And as a person vocalizes a tough time in a loving and supportive space, that person can gain a sense of empowerment. While it can be difficult, the people around you are there to be with you every step of the way. When the going gets tough, being able to lean on someone(s) increases your likelihood of sticking through it. 

So as you prepare for an ayahuasca ceremony, look for places that create a sense of community. While the experience is a deeply personal one, the experiences leading up to you drinking ayahuasca don’t have to be done alone. A community, small or large, can make all the difference as you get ready to work with this ancient and potent plant medicine. 

Our Closing Ceremony on Ayahuasca Preparation

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

1heart Journeys integrate the most effective ancient wisdom with modern research into fully immersive travel experiences. We curate leading practitioners across modalities proven to deliver powerful results, including plant medicines, biohacking, breathwork, meditation, and yoga. Your Journey will also include a healthy dose of fun. 

Our container is founded on integrity, safety, and expansion, and we’ve done the heavy lifting of creating processes to support and encourage your ayahuasca preparation. 

So as you do your ayahuasca prep and you want to participate in an ayahuasca retreat, look for places that offer a preparation and integration program. The length of time of each program isn’t as important as the intentionality and integrity that goes into supporting you before and after the in-person ayahuasca retreat.  

j12's ayahuasca preparation and integration circle

As you prepare for ayahuasca, if there is anything else that does not serve you in reaching your highest truth and potential, now is the time to cut it out. The more “sacrifices” you make, the fuller your experience. Grandmother Ayahuasca is sensitive to the importance you place on your journey and often rewards hard work. 

An ayahuasca retreat can be one of the most powerful and transformative weeks of your life. While it’s impossible to guarantee results, if you come open, you can expect to return from your ayahuasca experience with:

 

  • Deeper clarity on your life purpose
  • Expanded consciousness, intuition, and awareness
  • A detoxed mind, body, and spirit
  • New inspirations and tools for living and building businesses consciously
  • Lifelong friendships and connections
    • This piece largely depends on the organization you sit with. At 1heart, we say you come in as strangers and leave as family. While this isn’t exclusive to our Journeys, the level of love and commitment our people pour into one another long after the on-site Journey has closed is what makes 1heart special.

 

The purpose of the work we’re doing will together is to live healthier, more joyful, and fulfilling lives. At 1heart, our purpose is also to connect and collaborate more deeply with others and together co-create the world we want to live in. We will take time to celebrate all the work we do over the week and express in full gratitude for all that we have to be thankful for. 

Apply for our next transformational ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica

 

 

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