Ayahuasca ceremonies are the central axis of any treatment in Yosi Ocha. All the ceremonies and rituals that take place in Yosi Ocha follow the ancient teachings of the Shipibo Meraya, wherethe shaman always works guided by ancestral spirits.
During the first ceremony, regardless of whether the person has already taken the medicine under the direction of another ayahuasquero or is facing their first experience, Maestro Heberto will carry out an in-depth diagnosis of the patient to see his or her overall spiritual state, and identify if there are any negative spirits (“yeoshin“) or negative energies, which is very common for most people.
An important part of the diagnosis is to identify if the patient has any special energy, or light, in the body – in the third eye, eyes, hands, soles of the feet, chest, back, etc. – to protect it before starting the healing process. Those who have special energies tend to be more sensitive and vulnerable to outside energies, which is why it is crucial to protect that light before starting any work. Only then does the cleaning and healing process begin.
The work carried out during the Ayahuasca ceremonies at Yosi Ocha could be divided into three phases: first, the stage of diagnosis and cleaning; second, a phase of energy transmission in which the patient receives many “canos”, which are vital energy forces. In the third and final phase, the patient learns to connect with the spirits and Maestro Heberto teaches how to use the canos to heal oneself and other people.
The cano is the essence of all the energies of the plants that one receives through a“dieta”. It is thanks to the cano that one heals and learns things. The amount will depend on the length of stay and the plants that the patient is taking or ‘dieting’. It is important to make the distinction between two main types of dietas and canos. When a person comes for a healing treatment, the curandero will give him or her specific plants to diet and the accumulated cano will be used for the healing process. On the other, the dieta that is given to a shamanic apprentice is aimed at accumulating canos that will allow him to practice the art of curanderismo.
DRINKING THE AYAHUASCA BREW AND ITS EFFECTS
The shaman seeks to identify the root cause of the patient’s ailments. Once the origin of the disease has been determined, which may take some time, the maestro works on removing the blocks he sees during the ceremony and correcting the energetic body of the patient while keeping in mind his or her intentions.
After the initial diagnosis, Maestro Heberto will invite each person to explain privately their objectives. Whether your primary goal is to progress on your spiritual journey, or you are seeking help with a particular health problem, it is important for everyone taking part to express their desires clearly and hold them in mind before drinking Ayahuasca and throughout the retreat. At the same time, it is vital that the shaman knows your reason for being there, and what you are looking to achieve, so that he can help you in the best possible way.
Whether you are seeking a physical cure or drinking Ayahuasca as part of a long-term diet, wishing to see visions related to a particular issue in your life, looking for the answer to a specific question, or just wishing to achieve greater spiritual knowledge and learn about the experience of other dimensions in general – the shaman will direct his intentions, and invoke the spirits, accordingly.
HOW MUCH AYAHUASCA WILL I BE SERVED?
Once Maestro Heberto has a proper understanding of the needs and wishes of those present, he intones special ceremonial songs to bless the sacred liquid in accordance with individual requirements, inviting each person in turn to drink. It is important to note that the shaman will adjust the dosage and type of Ayahuasca to suit each patient. In Yosi Ocha, we work with different types of Ayahuasca, from a mild to an extra strong one, and once you have had some experience with the ceremonies, you may be offered the choice of a stronger dose.
After 15 minutes or so, the candles are put out and the ceremonial maloca remains in darkness. Silence is maintained, save for the occasional hoot of an owl and the cries of other night birds, the croaking of frogs, and the sporadic chorus of other nocturnal animals. It is very important during a ceremony that nobody talks. The initial period after ingesting the brew is the time for concentration and to hold in mind what you want to achieve from the experience, be it bodily healing or spiritual cleansing, specific answers, or an abundance of visions.
After another 15 minutes or so, most people start to yawn and sigh heavily, which is a sign that the Ayahuasca is starting to take effect. During this time the shaman meditates while sometimes smoking mapacho, the sacred jungle tobacco, which, amongst other things, has the effect of deepening his trance.
WHAT ARE THE “ÍCAROS”?
Generally, within 30 to 45 minutes from the ceremony beginning, the shaman will start singing ícaros, the ceremonial songs, the precise timing being determined by the spirits who have presented themselves, or been invoked, by the shaman. The icaros of the shaman play an essential role in all Ayahuasca ceremonies since these melodies enable him to ‘lighten’ his body so that he can be transported to a non-physical dimension. Many, many people have described these songs as the most beautiful music they have ever heard. The ícaros accentuate the effect of the Ayahuasca and very often a distinctive whistling or buzzing is heard, which seems to come either from a point just above the head or from within the head itself. Some studies have associated this sensation with the activation of the pineal gland, or third eye.
At Yosi Ocha, the shamans sing two types of ícaro: general ones aimed at guiding the group as a whole, and specific ones directed to each of the participants in turn. Maestro Heberto places great emphasis on the importance of individual attention and personalized treatment, a major reason for achieving greater results. When the maestro stands in front of you and sings to you specifically, you should sit straight, open your mind and your heart to allow his ícaros to fully enter your entire being, and allow him to guide you through the different dimensions thus, your spiritual body rises with that of the shaman and together you will travel through planes of existence quite unknown to ordinary people.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL WHEN THE AYAHUASCA STARTS TO “WORK”?
Mood changes during Ayahuasca ceremonies may be dramatic. Whilst great joy and elation are the norms for many people, deep sadness, fear, and even anger may be experienced. It may be said with certainty that no two ceremonies are alike, and no two participants will share identical experiences (although it certainly is possible to take part in communal, or shared visions). All the powerful emotions that are felt at this stage, be they joyous or unpleasant, are a sign that the Ayahuasca is beginning to work its magic. Typically, the body begins to feel weightless and there is a sensation of existing in slow motion. On raising your head, whether your eyes are open or closed, it is normal to see a kaleidoscope of brightly colored points and lines, and the body continues to fall into a deep trance.
Some people feel an instinctive urge to resist these effects, and this must be avoided. A fearful state of mind is likely to provoke frightening experiences: it is recommended to surrender and allow yourself to be carried away by these new experiences, and at the same time ask mother Ayahuasca to show you an abundance of visions. Of course, it is natural for first-time takers of Ayahuasca to be nervous, but most people learn after one or two ceremonies that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of, so they can enjoy more positive experiences. Generally, in Ayahuasca visions you will see the spirits of people, animals, and other beings, and scenes that may be indescribably intriguing or awesomely beautiful. It is, however, a very personal matter: at different times you may see scenes with startling clarity, or glimpse them as if through a veil; sometimes voices are heard, or teachings received through flashes of intuition.
DO WE ALWAYS HAVE VISIONS DURING AN AYAHUASCA CEREMONY?
Some people may have blocks in the third eye area, or a chain of illnesses, which disables them from having visions during a ceremony. It is quite common to see participants who come to a retreat primarily to see visions, and if for some reason they do not succeed, they become frustrated losing sight of the main objective of the retreat, which is the process of healing and transformation.
It is important to understand that the ceremonies are primarily focused on identifying and removing the root cause of the ailment, and in that process, there may be no visions. Also, one may have unpleasant visions, which is always a good sign that the medicine is working, allowing the patient to see all the bad things he may carry inside. If the medicine acts in this way, it is because the shaman has created a very safe environment that he controls masterfully and because the patient is ready to face his own ‘demons’. Once the main ailments are healed, good visions will come up, vibrating in line with the new state of the patient.
IS IT NECESSARY TO PURGE DURING A CEREMONY?
It is frequently the case that you will vomit or purge at some point during Ayahuasca ceremonies (particularly the initial ones, when there is most cleansing to be done) and bowls are provided for everyone present. It quite often happens when the shaman is treating you individually, but there is no need to feel embarrassed! Quite the reverse, it is the maestro’s intention for you to expel negative energies as well as physical toxins, and vomiting is a sure sign that he is succeeding in his work. Vomiting may, naturally, be preceded by feelings of discomfort, these may be quite intense, in which case, the shamans have various techniques to alleviate the suffering. It is equally likely that the need to vomit is felt quite suddenly and unexpectedly, with no prior discomfort. The process of vomiting may also intensify the visions. Vomiting is only a problem if it occurs immediately after ingesting the Ayahuasca, which indicates that the patient is not properly prepared, normally as a result of eating or drinking something incompatible with the Ayahuasca diet.
Many patients also wonder if it is bad for them not to vomit – everything that happens during a ceremony is good, one must learn to accept the wisdom of the medicine, it is Ayahuasca that leads us where we need to go. Our advice is not to offer resistance and surrender, the medicine knows its way and the shaman is there to guide and accompany the process.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF “MAREACIÓN”?
During Ayahuasca ceremonies, the patient can move within seven “levels” of “mareación”, or Ayahuasca effects. Levels one and two are very mild and the patient only has light physical and energetic sensations, such as oscillations in temperature, shivering, palpitations, certain pains, or tingling in different parts of the body. Even though in these levels there are barely any sensations in the body, the medicine is still doing its job. The most common levels for work are three and four when the state of immersion is deeper, information is presented more clearly and there is still control over the body, although there may be more discomfort, such as dizziness or difficulty in coordinating movements.
From then on, we enter into states that are beneficial for the spiritual body, but the physical body can feel very sick. In the fifth level, one begins the lose control of the body, there are few visions, fast and confusing. At the sixth level, the patient usually enters a state of temporary ‘insanity’ and total loss of control of the body in which he could scream or run because he can not stand things. In the seventh level, there is a total loss of consciousness, and the patient faints. Levels between five and seven are not common and are only used by the maestro when he must work on very deep traumas or when important healing must be done in a very short time. It is important to keep in mind that the medicine will never harm a patient while Maestro Heberto is guiding the ceremony.
HOW LONG DOES A CEREMONY LAST?
The effects of Ayahuasca start to subside after about two hours and one’s vision returns to normal. Whilst the shaman’s astonishing healings are set in train whilst the patient is in trance, Ayahuasca continues to work in the body and mind in both the short and long term. At the end of the ceremony, perhaps having discovered the root cause of some distress, or understood for the first time other powerful truths affecting their situation, people experience very special emotions. Very often, people feel full of love and positivity, an increased closeness to those around them, and where before they saw problems and worries, now they see solutions and opportunities, in other words, they feel in excellent humor. Others may feel sadness and the need to spend some time alone. The spirits of Ayahuasca continue to work within the psyche, helping the individual to identify and resolve internal conflicts, become a better, more caring person and lead a far less burdensome life, filled with joy and a feeling of wonderful inner peace.
We believe that it is advisable not to discuss one´s visions and experiences immediately after the ceremony, but rather to spend some time absorbing and processing the teachings of mother Ayahuasca.
WILL I BE ABLE TO TALK TO MAESTRO HEBERTO ABOUT THE CEREMONIES?
Periodically, Maestro Heberto will hold private or group consultations to discuss any particular issues that may come up or interpret the visions. He may also have identified episodes in your past, and even the actions of others that you are unaware of, which are affecting your current situation. Likewise, he can identify possible future realities, dependent on the choices you make today. These sessions are incredibly valuable, facilitating the action of Ayahuasca psychologically, and also terrifically affirming those who, however open-minded, are culturally ill-equipped to accept the spiritual dimension of the Ayahuasca experience, and shamanic work in general. The effects of Ayahuasca allow us to enter a cosmic, or non-physical dimension, and to journey in a world unknown to normal people.
To know that your visionary experiences coincide with those of your spiritual guide is to know that what you have seen has an objective reality outside of your mind – however far removed from ‘everyday’ reality.