Feedback to Shaman Links has shown that some people believe that Ayuhuasca and Shamanism are identical.
That is incorrect.
The practice of using Ayuhuasca originates in South America. Many shamans / shamanic practitioners do not use Ayuhuasca in their practice. For instance, the word Shaman came from healers in Siberia, and they do not use Ayuhuasca.
Shamans do their work by changing the state of their mind, or consciousness. This can be achieved through the use of the rhythm of the drum or of music. It can be achieved through physical activities such as long ceremonies of dancing and singing. It can also be achieved through the use of hallucinogens such as Ayuhuasca. What shamans do to shift their consciousness is different in different cultures. It is important to know that a large amount of shamanic healers don’t use hallucinogens.
As there seem to be a lot of confusion out there about shamanic practice, the following are a few important points you should know. In particular, we have a warning about Ayuhuasca below.
The Ecstatic Experience
Deeply touching spiritual experiences are often related to having an ecstatic experience. In our western culture, this type of experience is often missing from religious rituals and organized religions. In other times, and in other cultures, gatherings of people with lots of dancing and singing (whether they were festivals or spiritual ceremonies, or community gatherings) would allow people to have an ecstatic experience. This is because sound and physical movement can break down the barriers that keep us from feeling our connection to the infinite.
When someone has a moment of feeling deeply connected to the infinite, that is an ecstatic experience. Ecstatic experience is an important experience to be had by everyone, not just specialists like shamans, gurus, or other “special” people. In cultures with community ceremonies of dancing or singing or praying, an ecstatic experience can be had quite regularly (yearly, or more than once a year.)
Sometimes people are drawn to drugs because they are seeking to have an ecstatic experience. Because the ecstatic experience is not part of our common understanding, many people are longing to have something they don’t have a name for. Sometimes drugs seems like the only pathway. It is important to know that there are other ways to have this experience.
A Well Designed Spiritual Experience
A well designed Spiritual Experience should leave you feeling connected to something larger than yourself. It should not leave you feeling life is more painful than it was before. It should not leave you in a state where you have to recover from something you were not ready for.
The spiritual experience that is best for you, depends on your emotional state and what you are ready for. For some methods, like drumming, meditation, or altering your state of mind through movement such as dance, you are unlikely to have an experience that is more than you can handle.
By more than you can handle, I do not mean to say that the spiritual experience will not be overwhelming. Some spiritual experiences are very profound.
However, a spiritual experience that is more than what your truly ready for is a different thing. In this second case, its like your blew up your computer. The computer has to be repaired before it can really work again. In these experiences, you have to be healed from the damage caused by something that was too much for you to handle.
A properly design spiritual ceremony will not just blow your circuits and leave you feeling more disconnected than you did before. For some people, the problem with drugs, is that it can overload them with knowledge they cannot process or a change they are not ready to handle. It can also destroy the structure of their energy, if that structure is not strong. Drugs can force an experience that a specific individual is not ready for.
The Shaman’s Medicine
Every shaman has a particular way of being, and follow a particular path or system. While the way or path of a particular shaman may not have an official name or belong to a particular group, it can still be distinctive. This is sometimes called a shaman’s medicine. Some paths or ways are simply incompatible with each other because the energy of one type of practice can be disruptive to the energy of another type of practice.
If you are looking to find a spiritual path that is shamanic in some way, its important to know that you are also looking for one that is also the right path for you. In some ways this is a simple thing: if a path of study, or a particular practice helps you to deepen and connect more deeply… then it is the right path for you.
That does not mean that other paths are bad to try, or won’t work for you. Sometimes, any path that can get you started is a good thing. Also in some cases, it can take a long time to find the right path, or it may take a while to understand what path you are meant to be on. There’s no reason to wait for something perfect. It is good to start now.
However, you do want to avoid is a path that is truly wrong for you. You avoid such a path by taking the time to reflect on what you should do.
Ayuhuasca has a very distinctive and unique energy. Some paths are incompatible with such a distinctive energy.
Warning about Ayuhuasca
However, we have talked enough with people who have had problems as a result of taking the drug. Some people have had spiritual or emotional crises that have taken months or years to recover from. Keep these warnings in mind if you are seeking to have this experience:
- The effects of Ayuhuasca can be profound, you need to make sure the person who is guiding your experience has a lot of experience dealing with a spiritual crisis, were one to happen.
- Because drugs can force a stronger spiritual experience that some people can handle, its important to have a experienced guide rather than try it on your own.
- Even a very experienced South American shaman may not understand your culture well enough to provide you the type of guidance you need. Their practice has developed over years and taught them what to expect with their own culture. However, a person from a different culture may not react the same way.
- Approach the experience as a serious and significant one. In Western culture, we can dismiss the power of the spirit world. This can lead to a careless approach in selecting our spiritual experiences. Take your time, research first, and make sure you feel as confident as you can about your choice to have the experience, and your choice of teachers and ceremony leaders.
- There are charlatans who offer Ayuhuasca experiences. All spiritual practices have their share of cheats or swindlers. This includes practitioners of shamanism. For South America, Westerners offer a quantity of money to an area that has less economic wealth. So look for someone who is authentic, and responsible.
- Consider trying shamanic experience through other means. As you take the time to decide whether want to try shamanic experience through a South American approach, you can try shamanic experience with a drum or with other means.
We do not mean to imply by this list that people have not had positive experiences using Ayuhuasca. For some, Ayuhuasca is the right path for them. The most important thing is to treat your decision about how to proceed in a serious way. There are many paths to find what you are looking for, not just one. Take the time to find the right path for YOU.
It is unlikely that Shaman Links will write any further articles on Ayuhuasca or psychedelic drugs. This article was written because of questions that have brought people to this site. It seemed important to clear up the confusion that Shamanism and Ayuhuasca are the same thing.
***Shaman Links would never advise anyone to try psychedelic drugs. That is an irresponsible thing to do on a website, and an irresponsible message to people you do not know and have never met. Do not interpret this article as a recommendation for or against the use of drugs in shamanism.***
If you feel you need help recovering from a negative experience through drug use, you may want to contact a shamanic practitioner through a reputable site such as Shamanicteachers.com. A shamanic healer can help you repair damage that may have occurred to your energy. Shaman Links has a healer directory, but we do not screen the practitioners listed there.
For Further Reading, this is a good article on some of the Challenges of Ayuhuasca for the Western individual:
Shamans Use Shamanic Journeying as one of the ways they can open their mind, or have an ecstatic experience: