Is Ayahuasca a legitimate Spiritual Path?

Via on Jan 5, 2011

How do “mindful” Western, spiritual folk relate to a magic tea from the Amazon that can cure illness and accelerate burning through your karma?

From time to time, I drink “the medicine.”

The medicine is ayahuasca, a traditional South American tea brewed up of two different plants then ingested for shamanic, healing, and spiritual purposes.

It ain’t for fun, nor is it a way to avoid your issues or psychology. Far from it.

However, some spiritual circles and communities might frown upon its use, arguing it’s trying to take an easy way out.  The lack of education around ayahuasca has people thinking it’s simply another hallucinogenic, new age, feel good, hipsterific experience.

From my own experience, it’s work—plain and simple. And, used in conjunction with your meditation, yoga, or other mindfulness-based practice, ayahuasca can change your life for the better.

When used properly and under the guidance of trained shamans, the experience is extraordinary and deeply healing. People say that one strong medicine ceremony is akin to years of therapy.

Ayahuasca is gaining momentum here in the U.S. More and more folks are drinking the medicine. More seekers are asking how to find it and people who are in genuine pain, want its guidance.  In two states it’s now legal to use ayahuasca for religious purposes.

Just yesterday on foxnews.com (of all places) there was a lengthy article on the subject. Check the Fox News piece out here. It’s even being touted as a legitimate treatment for addiction. Watch a short video of Dr. Gabor Mate on the subject here.

A lot of my clients and friends have been asking me about it and how to get involved. It has changed my life in such a profound way, I finally wrote about my experiences openly on my blog.

Is ayahuasca a legitimate spiritual path or just an amazing healing agent? I share my thoughts and personal experience below…

Let’s hear yours.

___________________________________>>>>>>

I’ve been avoiding this post for some time, mostly because I have been unclear about how to talk about my experience publicly.

But here goes.

I do not take posting this lightly. I write this with great respect and humility. It is not my intention to sensationalize here. Rather, I want you to hear about my experience and then decide for yourself.

I thought about avoiding it some more, but my heart wants to tell you about what is serving me and my heart wants you to experience this if you are called.

I also consulted one of the shamans and asked about my intention to blog about the medicine. He encouraged me to share openly but avoid sharing who, where, when due to confidentiality and certain illegal properties involved. Made sense to me.

For the past 2 years, I have participated in semi-regular plant medicine ceremonies. Most have been with shamans who carry the sacred grandmother medicine known as ayahuasca.

For three years prior to my first experience of ayahuasca I avoided it and judged those who used it.

A personal account

Over a year ago, I had the hardest night of my life on this medicine. I shat myself, threw up on myself and thought I was going insane.  I was in a room with some friends and mostly strangers. I was crying out for help. I was dying. It felt like a psychotic break to the point where I lost all reference points and “me” totally disappeared.

I experienced deep terror that I don’t wish upon anyone. Fortunately for me, the inferno ended and I felt the deepest shame of my life that night. After many hours of hell, I came out the other side in bliss and ecstasy.

I crossed through a threshold that night that marked the true beginning of my ego death and spiritual emergence that is still going on today.

At this point, you might be wondering why I went back for more. But, for those of you who know me, you know that I am that devoted to uncovering the truth of reality.  And, while I have experienced the dark night, I have also see the other side, of blissed out LOVE.

Should you desire great tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads. —Hakuin

The hero’s journey has always been my quest. I have been drawn toward raw, real, experiences all of my life.  In the past, I have explored “pushing through” and this is requires a whole different approach—receiving and surrendering.

Ayahuasca = love?


In my opinion, ayahuasca is essentially truth serum made up of 100% love.

Not the kind of feel good love you might think of however.

Many of us think that love is synonymous with good feelings. But from where I stand, love = giving me the opportunity to see myself (ego and my essence) and my games clearly.  Being loved in this way is showing me the utter rawness of reality with no filters or apologies.

Ayahuasca is not for everyone. In fact, I don’t recommend it unless you are very, very, very serious about waking up to the total truth of who you are.

If you are incredibly hungry for the truth and want to see the your own mind clearly, then it’s worth exploring under expert guidance.

If you participate more than once and welcome her into your life, she will show you more than you can ever imagine. Worlds beyond worlds. Painful and dark truths about yourself, cosmic love, past lives, your childhood, your future. If you work with her on a regular basis, you will potentially accelerate burning through your psychological blocks and other obstacles.

However, she comes at a very high price. Not monetarily. Your personality will suffer and you will see parts of yourself that literally make you vomit. Once she is in your system, there is no where to run or hide and you can’t get out of the experience until the medicine wears off, often 4-8 hours later.

If you resist her, you may feel nothing at all. Your unconscious might be too wiley and defended. Or she will amplify your resistance 100 times and make you feel how painful that is.

Everything you have ever avoided feeling will have to be faced. Everything you pushed down, stuffed. Everyone you have ever hurt, blamed, judged will be felt throughout your entire body.

If you come humbly with great reverence and ask and pray for deep healing, teaching and surrender, you will get what you ask for and then some.

I have never been so generously given to in all my life. Her love is unwavering and as big as all the cosmos combined.

Ayahuasca is a huge part of my spiritual path now. I am not a seeker looking for some one hit wonder that will take away my pain and show me a good time. Nor am I using this sacred medicine to avoid the day-to-day grind of the householder path I am on.

This is nothing like LSD, mushrooms, X, or even peyote. To compare them is simply inappropriate. To call it a drug is disrespect.

So what is it?

What is Ayahuasca?


Ayahuasca is spirit accessed by a South America sacred plant medicine made by shamans that takes days to prepare. They mix two different plants, a vine and a leaf. Once the two plants are combined, DMT ( N,N-dimethyltryptamine) becomes active which gives the hallucinogenic effects. How shamans first discovered this still debated, but it’s obvious to me they spoke to plants and the plants spoke back.

Many folks use the name “grandmother” for this sacred medicine, thus suggesting it has a feminine essence. Traditionally it is known as yagé.  Some refer to ayahuasca as “the vine of death” because of the dying/rebirth process involved. Ayahuasca is considered a spirit that is called into the space by the actual brew and the shamans (see references and links below).

Ayahuasca is used traditionally as spiritual medicine to heal people, gain insight about the land, hunting information, and to receive guidance from the other side.

Ayahuasca as a brew is illegal in all states but two right now because DMT is a  Schedule 1 drug. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it is gaining momentum as a legitimate religious practice, specifically in the Santo Daime community.

Why is it becoming more popular now?

Why now?

I have no idea, but here are some guesses.

Ayahuasca is gaining more and more credibility in the medical world as a legitimate treatment for addiction. More on that here. Also, just google “ayahuasca addiction treatment” and see what you find.

It is also gaining ground as a legitimate spiritual path for Westerners.  Perhaps folks are tired of the guru’s human limitations. Perhaps with the growing consciousness movement and 2012 predictions, people are hungry for more immediate results and insights that address today’s challenges.

The clients I work with long for meaning and truths beyond books. People are in pain and have tried everything to relieve it or work through it and don’t see results. People are hungry for experiences that show them first hand what is really going on.

Some important words of caution

Ayahuasca used alone without working with your everyday relative reality has the potential of just being another spiritual bypass.  While I cured my sugar addiction with this medicine, it is not a magic bullet for your pain or problems.

Used in conjunction with ongoing integration...read the rest here.

About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, is a relationship specialist using the vehicle of his marriage and kids to wake up and live an empowered life. He’s on the planet to help people learn and master intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids. Jayson is the host of Empowering Relationships TV and writes his own highly personal blog, and has also written for Integral Life, The Jungle of Life, Primer Magazine, Recovering Yogi, The Good Men Project. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or Fulfilling Marriage.

29,255 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

31 Responses to “Is Ayahuasca a legitimate Spiritual Path?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Is Ayahuasca a Legitimate Spiritual Path? http://bit.ly/hYyrwl [...]

  2. jcrows says:

    Salvia Divinorum is similarly profound and not a recreational event. Using any of these entheogens recreationally
    shows a lack of respect for what one is trying to accomplish in the first place.

  3. Alvaro says:

    Viva a Ayahuasca, o Santo Daime! http://www.umbandaime.com.br

  4. Padma Kadag says:

    Not sure if it is the "easy way out". Is it the way out?
    How does one verify the authenticity of a "shaman"? What does an authentic shaman do? What is the motivation of the shaman? What would one do to continue the path of ayahuasca if ayahuasca were nowhere to be found?
    What is a legitimate spiritual path? Legitimizing a spiritual path infers that all spiritual paths that are legitimate have a common goal. What is that goal?

    • Anon says:

      Not sure if it is the "easy way out". Is it the way out? (A) It's a way to find truth.
      How does one verify the authenticity of a "shaman"? (A) the spirits he /she invokes
      What does an authentic shaman do? (A) holds a safe space for everyone in his ceremony
      What is the motivation of the shaman? (A) To practice medicine and heal
      What would one do to continue the path of ayahuasca if ayahuasca were nowhere to be found? (A) ayahuasca will always be found
      What is a legitimate spiritual path? (A) One which leads to truth and understanding
      Legitimizing a spiritual path infers that all spiritual paths that are legitimate have a common goal. What is that goal? (A) truth and understanding

      • Padma Kadag says:

        My inquiries are in answer to your question of whether or not Ayahuasca is a legitimate path…so I am asking so I can learn a little more. Do the Shamans teach the goal? "Truth and Understanding" is common in all religious paths but different paths have differing ideas about "Truth and Understanding" especially in how they are interpreted on this earthly plane. The goal of Ayahuasca is what? What happens when we die? When a Ayahuasca practitioner dies what happens? Is death different for ayahuasca practitioners compared to those that do not take ayahuasca? You mention Karma and the purification of karma through ayahuasca…the shamans have a teaching on karma? They actually use the term karma? Thanks for your patience.

        • Yage Panther says:

          Do the Shamans teach the goal? -> No, you define your intentions for the work.

          "Truth and Understanding" is common in all religious paths but different paths have differing ideas about "Truth and Understanding" especially in how they are interpreted on this earthly plane. -> In the shamanic approach you try to perceive unbiased because what you perceive totally unbiased und unconditioned is your true self. There is no common idea about what is truth but only individual ones. And for perception shall be unbiased any interpretation is to be avoided.

          The goal of Ayahuasca is what? -> Positive Development. Induvidually, socially, globally.

          What happens when we die? -> Who knows?
          When a Ayahuasca practitioner dies what happens? -> The same as for everyone.

          Is death different for ayahuasca practitioners compared to those that do not take ayahuasca? -> Maybe they show less fear then the average.

          You mention Karma and the purification of karma through ayahuasca…the shamans have a teaching on karma? They actually use the term karma? > AFAIK traditionally no. But it is nowadays used by some for explanation.

    • ljc says:

      A way out? Not sure why you would think a person would think it's a way out… Of course it is all opinion… Mine being it is rather a way in. A way in to what? … The earth.. The energy.. You just see things differently.

      -Verifying a shaman… Observe the people around you and how they treat him.. Is he greatly respected? Does he preform "religious" ceremonies? Is he the one the villiage goes to when someone is sick with the "devil" or even the flu? If you were in an area where there is an "Authentic" shaman, I think you would be able to tell…… *"Modern" Society — hard telling — too many people trying to make a buck…

      -Legitimate path? Slightly insulting….. Anyone who is on the "path" to afterlife, heaven, reincarnation , outer space, or nirvana would tell you they are on a legitimate path. That is their prerogative.. I would assume that would mean it was legitimate to them…. The goal may not be common but to each person it is mostly likely to have a sense of safety or "insurance" that they are excepted at "the end" of the path…. Or even just a sense of well-being and happiness. I don't think anyone in life has a goal of being sad and unhealthy..

      Again these are my opinions..
      ~respect ~

  5. yeye says:

    What is a Shaman?

    As the search for truth unravels and substances of Earth become popular, I wonder why LOVE being the creative Universal Energy is doubted constantly as the right way of living? Why do we need to make it a spychodelic experience or a mystic esoteric event? Isn't the miracle of yourself enough to trust that Love is all we need?

    As my passion for all terrenal shakes my tree of life and my curiosity for exciting discovery drives my actions, I keep reminding myself of one of th oldest spiritual advices in the path of enlightment: soberty. Clarity of mind. A vow to not intoxicate the mind.

    I wonder ~

    In the practices of Death, such as the one with DMT, wether is Ayahuasca or Toad Venom, one truth keeps coming up: Aren't we all dying every day? Will you wait until you get high on amazonian plants to live and relate to others as if this was your last day alive?

    love*light
    yeye

  6. samitee says:

    Ayahuasca definitely helped me find some true healing. I was living in darkness for a long time and have now found the light. I am forever indebted to the Shaman I worked with and this sacred medicine. For those who are interested, here is my story. http://infinitetangents.wordpress.com

  7. [...] focus on Indian spirituality towards the South American traditions. Ray shared stories of Peru and experiences with ayahuasca, but he constantly tied the issues of removing blockages and “veils” to modern day [...]

  8. [...] I’m here in Venice, CA, holding space for the few people left in Los Angeles who are not taking Ayahuasca. [...]

  9. [...] Ayahuasca is gaining popularity in spiritual seekers. Ayahasuca or Yagé is a serious path. It’s not for everyone and I highly recommend doing serious research before participating. [...]

  10. @lizu27 says:

    Wow I really love the way you described "YAGE" Ayahuasca is the scientific name. My parents introduce me to the yage spiritual life since I was 9 months old and I can say empirically that it had a great positive impact on my life. English is my second language and I never found the perfect words to describe the YAGE and its experience. I'm honored the way you described it I just can say THANK YOU for sharing the message of "YAGE". I'm witness of 100 people that got cure from drugs, other addictions and severe mental traumas.

  11. Anon says:

    As one who has suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder and still suffers, tell me would this plant be a cure for that? I have heard too many times by people that my suffering is self chosen. None of them educated in BPD. Recently, someone posted about this plant and how it is the “medicine of truth”, how the whole psychiatric system is a lie making us believe we are ill. Well, if this is so then why did I waste even my childhood even before seeing my first therapist suffering?

    I am all for alternative treatments and finding what works for one but I am not in favor if a community that makes others feel like they’ve really lost their minds because all this time they were fooled into believing they were ill. So, please do tell me will this help me ? I’ll do what I have to , to get it and hope my BPD is really just all fabricated.

    • oz_ says:

      Check out maps.org, and do a search on 'borderline'…

    • Mela says:

      The best help available in western medicine for BPD today is DBT + a validating environment with supportive people. Once upon a time, BPD was thought to be 'on the border of neurosis and psychosis and patients notoriously hard to treat. This is because BPD comes into being from abusive, neglectful, and/or invalidating childhood home life. So it is not your fault but many practitioners in western medicine are only now coming to understand that. Today, BPD is finally coming to be understood as a brain disorder caused by chemical changes in the brain rather than mental illness per se. As a result, much more money is freed up and interest and dollars are being poured into BPD research. Hang in there. While it is not your fault how you got BPD it is your responsibility to learn emotional regulation & mindfulness skills (see: DBT). The answer to your question is 'perhaps' but it should be attempted only once stable and with a trusted shaman.

  12. Jessica says:

    thanks for sharing this!!!

  13. Zoe Helene says:

    Thanks for the great article (and for mentioning Chris' Fox New story). Chris Kilham, my hubby, is of course is not at all just a Fox guy—–he's been in the natural scene from the early days and has been a key influencer—–but how amazing that the Fox people are open to his stories that, right? We've been pleasantly surprised. The Fox New Health folks we work with are very nice people who have a good, healthy open mindedness about such things. They deal with their sponsors like any media does (including Elephant Journal) but they have in all but three cases over four years let Chris publish whatever he sent in. Amazing, I think. But of course we work with a wide variety of media venues and we do cover the AYA in many of them.

    As for being 'healed'… from what I've seen and personally experienced, you can be relieved of many burdens, one after another, but we humans always have more work to do. Also, I've found AYA to be about asking for CLARITY as well, and INSPIRATION, and STRENGTH.

    Totally agree with you about the LOVE thing. YES. My theory is that the AYA is that part of you (or helps to get in touch with that part of you) that is the most LOVING VOICE. Self-Loving too – not as ego but as self care. Reaching for higher consciousness, seeking HEALTH. Love. Just… love. A loving voice. I have never seen it to be otherwise. Not once, in a wide variety of gatherings and people from all walks of life and at every stage of life and from many different countries and sub-cultures.

  14. @kworth1962 says:

    very interesting article, thank you for being soo honest with your experience and having the courage to do so. I have had a couple of spontaneous experiences similar to this, the first being at 16 after taking hallucinogens (and being sexually asaulted while on drugs)..the 2nd after receiving holistic work..aka perineal work which triggered old repressed stuff which emerged and threw me into a spontaneous "spiritual emergency" or "spontaneous "kundlini" type experience. (PTSD) the 3rd at onset of menopause..menses stopping..natural DMT release..and another "kundalini" experience. all 3 times, unfortunately, folks admitted me to a hospital where I was administered psychotic meds which exacerbated the experience..and am critically allergic to the meds..stopped the process and was excruciatingly painful. (felt I was being tortured) people need to be extremely careful..my brain is different (abnormal slowing in temporal lobe area..and I've been told "complicated migraines") which makes it very easy for me to enter "altered" states and go through this process. I am very disciplined..because I have to be. I have studied these states for self preservation. (am certified in Polarity and Massage and recently in level 1 Reiki) I do daily RYSE techniques and receive monthly sessions which support me and the process. One never knows if they may be the "lucky/unfortunate" one who due to unknown biological predisposition could experience trauma and possible death. I heard a male's voice who was at my side through these experiences, who I feel loves me as a daughter unconditionally..I could have "gone home" but chose to stay for my 4 children. It places enormous strain on them to have to witness this esp not understanding what's happening. I have healed and continue to evolve, love and grow. It can be a dangerous undertaking for some..I am a single mom/grandmom who just happens to have been born/wired this way. I'm good and thankfully fought the psyche docs and take no meds. Twice I got independent evaluations and was released from the very dangerous psyche wards…on my own. I hope people think long and hard before ingesting this..there is always risk involved and you may not know if yo may be the one , like me, who is "wired" differently. Thank you..Namaste

  15. Piers Ede says:

    Wonderful, honest writing. Best thing I've read on EJ for a while! I'm sure you've read Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head, but if not you will love it!

  16. oz_ says:

    Denigrating other psychedelics by referring to them as "simply another hallucinogenic, new age, feel good, hipsterific experience" isn't helpful. Ayahuasca, mushrooms, peyote, etc may all be used entheogenically AND therapeutically, and have been so used by traditional cultures for millennia. In fact, I've used (and continue to use) all of these judiciously as a part of my own spiritual journey. These are all potent therapeutic and spiritual agents, and none deserve the dismissiveness you aim at them.

    It may also interest you to learn that clinical mental health research using these compounds and more are demonstrating powerful results – curing intractable addictions (ibogaine), decades long depressions (ketamine) and PTSD among rape victims and traumatized combat vets (MDMA), not to mention end of life anxiety for terminal cancer patients (psilocybin) and others.

    So please don't dismiss non-ayahuasca-based psychedelics (as a practitioner, you should know that hallucinogen is a pejorative term) as 'simply' – these compounds have an equal potential as legitimate components in a quest fir spiritual growth. When you do, you turn authentic spirituality (many roads up the mountain) into dogmatism and religion (One True Way).

  17. Kristen says:

    From my own experience with yage, mother ayahuasca is not a quick fix, at least not in the way I think of quick fixes. While the time span of a ceremony/effects of the medicine lasts for 4-8 of our hours, the psychological work accomplished in that time is vast enough to be spread over a lifetime. And it is WORK, hard, sweaty, dirty, soulful work.

    I once described it to a friend as being like a chiropractic treatment for the soul – certain patterns are pointed out, and perhaps we are even put onto new, healthier pathways but it is up to the individual to take the opportunity for change and to build upon it. It has been almost three years since my last ceremony, but even if I never participate in a ceremony again (I hope to!) I will be building on the teachings the medicine gave me for the rest of my life.

  18. Mike says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I've been very interested in trying ayahuasca for years.

  19. Renard Moreau says:

    [ Smiles ] Yes, I would say that it is a legitimate path!

  20. Tom Brown says:

    I did Ayahuascan first time at age of 27. I'm 29 now. It literally awoken me from the illusion of reality. I was asleep, playing the game of life, thinking it's all real. After I took it, the lessons revealed to me were out of this reality. There's no point describing them in words, because it's indescribable. It's like entering another world, previously unknown where 3D turns into Infinite Dimensions. Only choose to take it with a shaman (Google: Ayahuasca retreat), and don't think it's for pleasure. It's a teacher. It's like getting 1000 years of lessons about life, purpose, yourself, others, world, reality… in under 8 hours.

  21. jurema says:

    It is misleading to say ayahuasca is legal to use in two states. It is legal for members of the União do Vegetal to use in their ceremonies in all 50 states, and for members of Santo Daime in one state (Oregon) but only within the church ceremony. Shamanic use has not been contested, but probably because it has so far been undetected. Arguments in this context about whether it is a medicine, sacrament or drug are ongoing. Santo Daime will probably use the same successful line of defense as the UDV if the case comes to court; however, that defense comes with heavy burdens to account for every drop and strict controls on importation and use. The Santo Daime church of the US is not especially eager to go to court and be subject to heavy regulation.

  22. Vidura says:

    Ayahuasca has some uses…in cases it has been proven to cure depression and it can open the mind to realize that there are other realities beyond what the senses perceive. That said, I personally don't consider the regular consumption of it a "high" spiritual practice. I took it once. It was an interesting experience…and it felt like I was loosing my mind at some point. It was with a "shaman" at a gathering of over 40 people in a hippie's loft in NYC. Seeing all these people puking at the same time and having hallucinations of seeing their faces morph into demons is not my idea of fun. I did not consider the experience uplifting. And the people who were taking this in a regular basis did not seem particularly enlightened. There was something dark about the whole scene. And I felt the people leading the gathering were irresponsible and a bit deluded. Maybe if I had gone to the Amazon with a proper shaman I would have had a better experience. I'll stick to my meditation and yoga practice. Thank you very much.

  23. Devol says:

    Loved the article, and I honor your commitment to reach more awakened states via sacred psychedelic medicines. Mushrooms and Peyote are considered sacred for a reason; they hold a rich shamanistic tradition. If you've ever participated in a traditional Peyote ceremony, you would note some similarities with Ayahuasca, including connection with animal guides and native plant spirits, as well as "purging" chanting, etc.
    Although seemingly controversial among those who love the "plant" medicines, LSD is a powerful modern shamanic substance, brought about by evolution at the same time as humanity was learning to split the atom. It is as if Universal Consciousness was holding out a choice to the human species of either awakening/evolving or destruction/extinction. LSD should also never be considered a "drug", as it is a powerful tool of consciousness, and to those who use it ceremonially, recreational use is taboo. As an LSD shaman for over 40 years, I can attest to amazing awakenings and changes in countless seekers throughout the years.
    Now that "scientific" research has begun again on LSD, modern shaman, psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers and spiritual seekers are beginning to speak out about the full awakening of our Higher Selves with the use of this sacred gift.
    Happily, there are many tools available to us at this time, when our species most desperately needs them. May we all keep open minds and meditate upon whether to partake of the various medicines offered to us.

Leave a Reply