What To Know When Selecting Your First Ayahuasca Retreats | Our 11 Top Tips 

Ayahuasca is a powerful, sacred psychedelic tea that can transform a person’s life. It doesn’t matter if you’re Aaron Rodgers or someone far less famous; the Medicine of ayahuasca can remind you what it means to be the best version of yourself. 

But taken for the first time (or anytime) in a harmful or dangerous environment can leave someone worse off than when they entered their ayahuasca retreat. 

At 1heart, we’ve hosted over 500 conscious creators, leaders, and entrepreneurs in our transformational ayahuasca retreats over the last five years. We’ve even received 145+ 5-star reviews on WeTravel from our Guests.

Given our experience and successes in the ayahuasca retreat space, we felt called to share our top 11 tips you need to know when selecting your ayahuasca retreats. 

Brandon, the co-founder, leading an workshop on connection

1. Preparation Program

Ayahuasca preparation is a serious undertaking. And the organization facilitating your ayahuasca experience should support you in several ways before you’ve met each other in person or drank your first cup of sacred plant medicine.

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

 

Bringing Everyone Together Before The Journey Begins

 

Some retreats might wait until the day before your first ayahuasca ceremony to bring everyone together. 

We believe the best ayahuasca retreats use technology to their advantage and begin creating these connections before meeting each other in person. Whether through Zoom or WhatsApp, building rapport with the people who you’ll be drinking Medicine with can support everyone’s process. 

Having at least one week, ideally, two, to get to know each other catalyzes the connections to come when you inevitably meet one another. 

Giving You The Tools To Elevate

At 1heart, we provide all of our Guests a 25-page elevation guide full of journal prompts, recommended resources, questions that a life coach might ask you, and support to better understand why you’ve come to our transformational ayahuasca retreat while meeting you right where you’re at. 

Drinking a cup of ayahuasca is a courageous act and not for the faint of heart. And the retreats that both challenge and support you to look in the mirror and get to the root of your nature set you up to heal deeper and leave lighter. 

Tim, a co-founder, leading intention setting before the final ayahuasca ceremony

Creating Space To Set & Share Intentions

Setting intentions is an empowering practice that gives you a sense of clarity as you prepare for ayahuasca. 

Whether your group is 10 people or 40 people, being given support to set your intentions with different prompts or exercises and then having the space to share can give you empowerment for your own healing process and allow you to connect with your community before you’ve met in person creates a space of honesty, vulnerability, and trust.

Outlining The Importance Of The Ayahuasca Diet

An ayahuasca diet, also known as a dieta, are constraints to be placed within your life. These constraints impact the food and drinks you’ll consume, any medications you may be taking, and certain habits you’re expressing. 

Following the dieta in preparation for your ayahuasca retreat helps you lay the groundwork for this powerful experience, demonstrates respect and commitment to yourself and your healing, and prepares your body to receive Medicine. Dedicating yourself to the ayahuasca diet can also lessen the amount of cleansing needed in the ceremony so the healing work can unfold more easily. 

We give our Journeyers an outline of why a dieta is important, foods and behaviors to curb, and delicious recipes shared by our alumni and Food Network Champion, Palak Patel. We also ensure to screen our guests intently and intentionally, which we’ll cover more in tip #4.

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • How long do I need to follow an ayahuasca diet?
  • Do I have to follow the dieta after the in person experiences are over?
  • What type of resources do you provide to support your Guests?
  • How do you begin connecting people or building a sense of community digitally? 
  • I’m not sure what my intentions are, do you experience this often? 
  • Can I have too many or too few intentions? 

 

2. Integration Program

Integration is everything. It’s how we turn altered states into altered traits. Whether it’s ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, or a different psychedelic medicine, if there isn’t a program to cement your new learnings received in your experience, these peak states become fleeting experiences. 

And integrating these profound teachings into our day-to-day doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, months, and, oftentimes, years. 

 

“Integration is a basic law of life; when we resist it, disintegration is the natural result, both inside and outside of us. Thus we come to the concept of harmony through integration.” – Norman Cousins

 

 

Ideally, an ayahuasca healing retreat offers you at least 2-3 weeks of integration. We give each of our Journeyers 5-weeks of integration. And just like in the preparatory process, the more you show up in these sensitive, transformative times, the easier it becomes to bring empowerment and beauty into your everyday life.

 

A special case for integration can be found through Temple of the Way of Light, as they’re in the process of creating a 3-month aftercare program for all of their guests. 

 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • Why is integration so important to an ayahuasca experience?
  • What makes your integration different from other ayahuasca retreats? 
  • How do you assist people in integrating after the retreat? Can you explain how your integration program is setup?
  • Why do you think integration gets overlooked when experiencing any psychedelic medicine?
  • What’s the most important part of integration for an individual? 

Marie facilitating the woman's workshop

3. Designed Transformational Programming On Retreat

While ayahuasca ceremonies are potent and profound, the programming outside of these ceremonies, while you’re on your retreat, can’t be understated. 

Each holistic sanctuary offers different programming. For example, Lotus Vine Journeys combines ayahuasca and Buddhism, so there’s time to meditate and workshops to deepen one’s understanding of this ancient way of life. 

At 1heart, we serve leaders, creators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers and create workshops encouraging the impact our Guests are making in the world to shift more toward being guided by the heart rather than always being led by the head. 

Common programming can include breathwork sessions, envisioning workshops, integration and sharing circles with the Maestra and/or Maestro present, mindful movement – like yoga classes or bodyweight workouts, cacao ceremonies, singing circles, and other intentional, compassionate, and transformative healing activities. 

Group yoga to start one of the mornings during J12

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • What are your favorite experiences outside of the ayahuasca ceremony? 
  • What other opportunities for deep breakthroughs and integration are included on your retreat?
  • What programming have past Guests found the most challenging? And why do you think that’s the case?
  • Will we be doing any excursions in nature? 

 

4. Curation of Guests

The people you find yourself next to before, during, and after your ayahuasca retreat is a crucial element. Make sure you can speak with the provider, facilitator, or someone associated with the retreat before finalizing your booking. If it’s all online, anyone could be sitting next to you in the ayahuasca ceremony rather than individuals who have been vetted and screened in in-depth ways by the organization.

Most ayahuasca retreats allow anyone to join who’s met the basic medical conditions. Make sure you choose a retreat that does in-depth screening to ensure your physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being.

This in-depth screening is the norm at our transformational ayahuasca retreat. Every person who applies is interviewed by one of our co-founders. 

1heart’s focus has been on creating community and bringing together heard-led souls looking to make a positive impact in the world. Imagine how powerful it is to have a group fully supporting one another before, during, and after these powerful ayahuasca experiences. 

For people who are looking for a retreat with a deeper collective intention and like-hearted souls, make sure to pay attention to the ayahuasca retreat’s application and/or interview process. 

Ask this organization how people join their retreats or how most people find their unique ayahuasca experience. 

For 1heart’s ayahuasca retreats, over 80% of the people who find us are referrals. That means most come to 1heart are already pre-curated by our community and are recommending those they love to journey deeper with 1heart. 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • How do people find your ayahuasca retreat? 
  • What do you do to determine if someone’s the right fit for your retreat? 
  • How do you nurture your community before and after this experience?
  • Can you share a memorable experience of the community supporting an individual?

J15 enjoying time together outside of their ayahuasca experiences

5. Continued Community Nurturing

Time and time again, we’ve seen our community be as potent as the medicine of mother ayahuasca. How an organization brings together their community before, during, and after is crucial. 

This is where the programming on retreats plays a huge role. It sets a foundation for people to connect. Often at ayahuasca retreats, people share things with each other that they haven’t shared with friends or family they’ve known for decades. These connections can happen in a workshop or over lunch. No matter where they happen, what’s important is your ayahuasca retreat creates space to deeply connect with the community you’ve found yourself in. 

And after the ceremonies have closed and everyone goes back to their respective lives, how the organization facilitates community building signals how much (or little) they care about maintaining these bonds. 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • How have you cultivated a sense of community after the in-person retreat ends? 
  • Why is community important when participating in an ayahuasca retreat?
  • How to begin creating a community before the in-person retreat?

 

6. Hundreds of Consistent Raving Testimonials 

Most of us look to reviews before investing in a service, product, or anything else. The same should hold true when vetting your ayahuasca retreat. 

If an organization isn’t openly displaying testimonials from their Guests, that’s something to take note of. If there isn’t much or any information out there about a specific retreat, that’s also information. You shouldn’t have to work hard to learn what past Guests have to say about their experience with an ayahuasca retreat. 

Naim Hamdar's review of his 1heart ayahuasca experience

We aren’t the only ones transparent about alumni testimonials. Ayahuasca Foundation and Behold Retreats are two other ayahuasca retreat centers that are upfront about reviews for their Guests. 

We’ve had over 145 5-star reviews from our alumni. It’s one of the first things you’ll see on our homepage. So don’t just take our word for 1heart being one of the best ayahuasca retreats for conscious creators and leaders; go check out the reviews our Journeyers have left or first-hand ayahuasca experience stories from alumni featured on our podcast

And you’ll learn that many of these people have been to many other transformational retreats, whether the offering is tied to yoga, meditation, medicinal plants, or otherwise, 1heart sits at the top of the transformational retreats our people have found themselves in. 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • Where can I find some reviews from past Guests?
  • Can you connect me to a person or two who’s been on your ayahuasca retreat?

 

7. Beautiful Accommodations

As the modern world meets the medicine of ayahuasca, this aspect of ayahuasca retreats is becoming more common and expected. Most retreat centers display their plant medicine campuses front and center either on their website or social media pages.The Maloca for ayahuasca retreats tucked away in the mountains of Costa Rica

However, it’s important to note that most smaller organizations aren’t financially able to invest in physical safety. It’s worth spending a little more for something that makes you feel physically comfortable. Having peace of mind about your physical environment as you integrate your experience will have your future self thanking us later. 

Central and South America are spoiled with properties tucked away in mountains, surrounded by lush and beautiful forests, or even right next to the South Pacific. 

And not only does the quality of the area matter, but so does the quality of the food you’ll eat. Since you’ll still adhere to the ayahuasca diet, ensuring that this place serves healthy, wholesome, and ideally delicious meals is significant.

However, not every ayahuasca retreat can boast holding these ceremonies in the blue zone of Costa Rica. 1heart can. 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • Why did you pick this location?
  • How many times have you hosted an ayahuasca retreat here?
  • What pieces of nature is this accommodation close to?
  • If applicable – Will the meals be vegan or vegetarian-friendly?

 

8. Reverence & Experience

Having the responsibility of serving someone a cup of ayahuasca is no small feat. Medicine people, healers, and facilitators typically have undergone numerous apprenticeships, extended isolated periods in the Amazon, and decades of experience sitting with and learning from this ancient, shamanic brew. 

The path a person takes to sit at an altar, serve someone ayahuasca, and facilitate the ceremony demands responsibility, reverence, compassion, and strength. And you’ll want to be guided by those who continue to have a lightness of being and sparkle in their eyes. 

You want someone you believe has a breadth of experience in this work, supports and guides your mental and emotional evolutions, and emphasizes healing in various forms – because not even ayahuasca is a panacea. 

Important still are the people who won’t serve you ayahuasca but can be the first people to be at your side when you need help. The strong yet light-hearted nature of the medicine person or people trickles down to those who are there to be of service during the ceremony. Not all ayahuasca retreats will have additional people solely focused on being there for you or someone else as you go through your ayahuasca journey. 

Ayahuasca isn’t all light and loving, though. This sacred medicine can give a person power, and what a person does with that power is up to them. Unfortunately, not all facilitators have your best interests at heart. While someone may be indifferent to who you are, the experiences you’ve had, and the questions you’ll ask – which can be a challenge in and of itself – others may be looking to cause harm emotionally, energetically, spiritually, or even physically. 

Medicine people with harmful and dangerous intentions are real, and the last thing you want to do is find yourself in their ayahuasca ceremony drinking their medicine. Aubrey Marcus once shared that if you are in this situation – not feeling good about the setting, the facilitators, or other variables, and haven’t drank Medicine, trust your feelings and live to learn another day. You have a lifetime to experience ayahuasca and it’s best to do it with facilitators who genuinely care about you, want to hear about your experiences, and have your best interests at heart. 

The Soltara Healing Center does a great job not only displaying their medicine team but also highlighting the people behind the scenes who are supporting their mission. 

We encourage you to speak to friends and family, or even connect with people on social media who have experienced a specific ayahuasca retreat. Connecting with these people can give you a better understanding of how the leaders of this retreat actually carry themselves and hold this sacred space.

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • Can you share a page where I can learn more about your team?
  • How many people will make up the medicine team or will be sitting at the altar?
  • How long have they been serving or working with ayahuasca? 
  • How many people will be there in service to the group? 
  • And what’s their experience level with supporting ayahuasca retreats?

Leaders from J2 enjoying each other's company

9. Leading With Love

Choosing a place that you believe can serve your individual needs is essential. If you have to wonder if the leaders have taken the time to get to know and understand you after having met them, again, proceed with caution. We don’t want you to find yourself at a take-it-or-leave-it ayahuasca retreat.

In everything a retreat does, we believe there needs to be an undercurrent of love and intentionality. Whether it’s intertwined with the on-retreat programming, meals being made, hanging out on the land, preparation and integration offerings, or however else the organization and people behind it express themselves, the love needs to be felt. 

You may have heard about love being the secret ingredient to grandma’s cooking. The same holds true in an ayahuasca retreat. You should be able to feel the love in everything they do, why they do it, and how it’s done. 

Another common expression for someone who has experienced ayahuasca, or many other forms of psychedelic medicines is just how important love is in everything we experience. 

When we open ourselves up with these medicines to high degrees of vulnerability and sensitivity to support our healing, we recognize how powerful and transformative the energy of love is. You’ll want to make sure those leading you inside and outside of your ayahuasca retreat embody that honest sense of love, integrity, respect, and reverence for the work they’ve done and get to do. 

You’ll want to select a retreat that supports your subjective experiences or at least feels aligned psychologically, philosophically, cosmologically, and/or energetically. The energy of the retreat, participants, ceremony leaders, and supporters will have a profound impact on your ayahuasca experience. 

Spirit Vine Retreats in Brazil like to combine meditative, yogic, and creative workshops during their ayahuasca retreats. And with 1heart, workshops we share with love include mindful movements, breathwork, sweat lodges, ecstatic dance, and other surprise offerings. 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • Why do you do what you do? 
  • Do you love what you do? 
  • Do you have any workshops that focus on love? 
  • What have you been most intentional about as you’ve grown? 

 

10. Safe Container with Integrity

If you don’t feel safe in your sacred plant medicine ceremony, being able to completely surrender to do deep, healing, loving work becomes a serious challenge. 

But when an ayahuasca retreat values safety and integrity above all else, you can trust you’re in good hands. It makes it easier to surrender to the power of the Medicine and do your work. You can know in your mind and feel in your heart that you are held, you are seen, you are loved, you are heard, and you are valued. 

Because chances are, your ayahuasca experience will feel overwhelming. And this feeling, experience, or sensation isn’t good or bad, it just is… overwhelming. Remember, drinking ayahuasca and doing this deep, deep work is not for the faint of heart. It takes a courageous person to show up and choose to have these experiences.

So when the going gets tough, hard, sad, painful, uncertain, maybe even scary, being able to know in your bones that you’re safe offers you support beyond words.  

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • What are things you do to ensure the safety of your Guests?
  • What does integrity look like during your ayahuasca ceremony? 
  • Have you ever experienced an ayahuasca ceremony of yours become messy? If so, how have you, the facilitators, or the medicine team handled this experience? 
  • When an ayahuasca ceremony becomes disorganized, how has your team of facilitators responded?

 

11. Fun and Play

Our audience is leaders, creators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers; type A personalities who are making impacts in their communities and industries but all too often aren’t fulfilled with the work they’re doing or why they’re doing it. 

Many plant medicines and psychedelic medicines remind us to have more fun, experience more joy, and find ways to play more often in our lives. These Medicines often bring our Child to the surface. How do we encourage collective and individual fun and play? With beautiful excursions into nature, ecstatic dances, a closing costume part, and many other surprises you can only experience on Journey. 

When we stop taking ourselves and our work SO seriously, our work can become better and our free time becomes more creative. We’ve seen it time and time and time again. If you want an example of this, listen to our podcast with Alex Maceda. She was a Standford MBA Silicon Valley Exec who now works and plays as an abstract artist. She went from being burnt out and depressed to living a life full of color, creativity, and financial abundance.

How your ayahuasca retreat cultivates fun, play, and creativity can bring you back to skills and joy you might not have expressed since your earliest days. 

Questions To Consider Asking:

  • How do you encourage fun and play while on your retreats?
  • How do your foster creativity in these in-person ayahuasca retreats?
  • How do you continue promoting fun, play, or creativity after the in-person experiences are over?

 

Our Closing Ceremony On Selecting Ayahuasca Retreats:

Choosing your ayahuasca retreat can be one of the most important decisions of your life, whether it’s your first time or fifth. 

There are many things to look out for and ask questions about. An intentional and prolonged preparatory and integrative process might be the most important piece. 

But things like loving leaders, on retreat programming, and safety and integrity mustn’t be overlooked either. 

We built this list of our top 11 tips because we’ve embodied each for years. So if you’re feeling the call or the draw to experience an ayahuasca retreat, look no further than 1heart. 

Apply for our next transformational ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica

 

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