Our Process

Ayahuasca and other plant medicines offer a level of knowledge and power that should be accessed only in the right environment and with the right preparation beforehand, and support during and after the experience. These medicines are far from recreational, and must be treated with the utmost respect and care. At Arkana Spiritual Center, we make sure our guests feel prepared and taken care of, from the moment they register for a retreat with us, through their whole experience and for months afterwards with our Post-Retreat Integration Program (PRIP). Explore each section below to understand the process of working with the medicines, and how we help you have the most fulfilling and transformative experience on your healing journey.

Preparation

We often say that once you make the commitment to working with Ayahuasca, the medicine starts working on you, before you even arrive in Peru! As a result, you may become aware of difficult feelings and emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or depression, come to the surface in the weeks leading up to your retreat. This is normal, and in fact a crucial part of the healing journey. It’s important to understand how best to handle these emotions, if they do come up, as well as prepare your mind, body, and spirit as best as you can, in order to get the most out of your experience with us.

Preparing to Face Your Shadow
Ayahuasca can be best described as a very big, very shiny mirror. It’s power and knowledge come from its ability to strip away the layers of avoidance, reluctance, and lies that have covered up our darkness – our traumas, deeply-rooted fears, and negative thought patterns. This process may bring us face-to-face with our “shadow self” – those parts of us that we have buried deeply in our subconscious; emotional and energetic blockages that we may have covered up with alcohol, drugs, unhealthy food, prescription medication, external validation and materialism, etc. While Western medication attempts to solve this problem by treating the symptoms, that only further separates us from the root cause, and acts as another tactic to avoid healing the real issue. The only way to get through it is to go through it. Ayahuasca shows us the true path to healing is facing our shadow, resolving the inner conflict and turmoil that has caused us to bury and suppress our pain (often reaching all the way back to childhood), and releasing the energy that has been trapped there for so long, freeing us up to feel the full experience of love.

As you begin to prepare yourself for the Ayahuasca experience (typically 1-2 months in advance of your retreat), starting to cut out the parts of your life that have helped to keep these emotions buried, you may find them start to come bubbling to the surface. If this is the case, the best thing you can do is to have as much compassion for yourself as you can muster. Treat yourself with kindness, and allow yourself the space to feel and observe the emotions from a place of non-judgement. Ayahuasca is showing you what you will be dealing with, and it’s important to trust in the process and that the medicines are working on you and will help you through it. We highly recommend starting a meditation and/or yoga practice to help with this, and avoiding environments that serve to feed the fear and anxiety that may try to deter you from seeing your journey through. And of course, feel free to reach out to us at any time if you need support, advice, or just an ear to listen. Having worked with the medicine extensively, our staff understands the potential challenges of the healing process, and are here for you in whatever capacity you need.

 

Preparing your Body
There is a lot of information one can find on the web regarding the dietary rules and restrictions to follow, in order to have a fulfilling experience with Ayahuasca. However, a lot of this information can be contradictory and you might get a little confused as per how to proceed best, and, either not follow much of a diet at all, or, follow it to an extremely strict and harsh extent. If you are choosing the second option, there is nothing wrong with that. However, we believe that there is a Golden Middle and it’s not necessary to go with either of the extremes (no diet at all vs. very strict one).

For at least 2 weeks before your retreat, based on our own experience and observations, we believe it to be helpful to exclude harmful and unhealthy things from your diet and start eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water, avoiding highly processed foods, refined sugar in excess, spicy foods,  too much caffeine, as well as red meat, and especially pork. As well, we recommend avoiding alcohol, synthetic, as well as other natural drugs, such as marijuana, and most importantly, any kind of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication (SSRI’s, SNRI’s, DRI’s etc…). For at least 1 week before your retreat, we recommend abstaining from sex of any kind, including masturbation. If you are taking psychoactive medications, their use should be discontinued COMPLETELY for at least four weeks prior to arriving in Peru. If you have any questions about specific medications, feel free to email transform@pulsetours.com, and we will be happy to look into them for you.

Remember that you don’t have to be too harsh on yourself with the diet, because if you are, it depletes the entire purpose of it. While we recommend some discipline, you should still feel good about the sacrifice you are making to Mother Ayahuasca. Enjoy it and have some fun with it! Be kind to yourself. If you slip and eat something which you said you wouldn’t – forgive yourself, but try to accomplish your goal, nevertheless. Often times, it’s not about what you eat or don’t eat, but the intention you have and the sacrifice you are making to Mother Ayahuasca and your healing process by keeping your body as clean as you can. A clean body invites a clean spirit, and sets the stage for deeply healing work.

 

Preparing your Spirit
We highly recommend taking the time to prepare your mental and spiritual bodies, in addition to your physical. This may include meditation, yoga, art or dance classes before your retreat. Anything that connects you with your own self, so that you get a deeper understanding of what you truly wish to accomplish during your stay with us. A close friend of ours once said that many people come to do Ayahuasca thinking they know what their intentions are… However, upon meditating on the subject, they often realize that their intentions are a bit superficial and what they truly need to work on lies on more of a spiritual/soul level. Ayahuasca works with your subconscious mind and will help you see what truly matters.

Finally, we recommend focusing on things which raise your energetic vibrations. You can find a great article on what that means and how to do it by clicking here.

Cleansing

Often, when one begins their journey with Ayahuasca, the first step that our shamans take is one of cleansing. Coming from a world of that tends to contain dense energies, as well as those which the guest brings with them internally, it is often the case that the intention set by the shamans for the first Ayahuasca ceremony is one of cleansing the spirit and preparing it for deeper work in subsequent ceremonies. It’s important to note that you may have other intention(s) for your first ceremony, as may the shaman, but this one is usually included by the shaman and serves to prepare you to dig deeper once the prep work has been done.

To assist with this process, we offer 3 separate opportunities for you to cleanse your energetic body upon arrival. The first is the Nunu ceremony, which is held the night you arrive to the Center. This ceremony, with a mixture of jungle tobacco and other plants collected from the jungle, is meant to cleanse your nasal passages, open your third eye, and awaken your spirit to the world of plant medicines. It can help ground you and open your senses to the surrounding jungle, clearing your head and inducing a sense of calm which helps relieve any anxiety about the work ahead. Finally, it opens the ceremonial space with your group and connects you to what the shamans consider Grandfather medicine – tobacco. Jungle tobacco (which is wild-grown and contains no chemicals or additives) is a sacred medicine in the Shipibo tradition, and is considered a plant spirit which acts as a conduit for other plant-spirit healers to be called upon by the shaman. There is a legend in the Amazon basin that the spirit of tobacco was the one that guided the ancient indigenous tribes to discover the combination of plants which led to the discovery of the Ayahuasca brew. This sacred medicine of Nunu connects us to these plants and opens our path to begin our work with the medicines.

The morning after your arrival, you will also partake in a Kambo (frog venom) ceremony, if you wish. This powerful medicine acts as a deep physical cleansing agent, resetting your immune system by flushing your whole body with white blood cells. It is a short ceremony, only about 10 minutes per person, but the effects are immediate and it flushes your whole body in such a way that people often experience great physical and mental benefits using this medicine alone. It has been shown to treat pain, inflammation, depression, and a variety of illnesses. It may induce vomiting (or purging), which serves to further cleanse the intestines and liver. Building upon the energetic cleansing of Nunu, Kambo acts as a thorough physical cleansing, without the extended time purging and feeling ill required for other cleansing vomitives used throughout retreat centers in the Amazon. We find this medicine to be an extremely powerful precursor to your Ayahuasca ceremonies.

Finally, prior to each ceremony, we offer floral baths made from various jungle plants and flowers. Our female shaman, Angelita, lovingly prepares these cleansing baths with multiple plants grown around our Center and in the surrounding jungle. Guests are invited to put their intention into the bath, asking the spirits of the plants to cleanse and protect them as they enter ceremony. As always, the intention that is put into an activity or ritual is a marker for how much you will get out of it, and this is a final opportunity before ceremony to calm the mind, cleanse the spirit, and set the intention.

We place a strong emphasis on physical and energetic cleansing surrounding your work with Ayahuasca. The Amazon jungle is sacred land, and the world of Ayahuasca shamanism embodies that fully. It’s important that this work is done with as clean of a mind, body, and spirit as possible, in order to lay a strong foundation for the process. At Arkana, the alchemy of our work involves substantial preparatory cleansing in order for you to get the most out of your experience, and we invite you to take advantage of every opportunity to do this and prepare for your transformation.

Self-Discovery

The journey back home – to one’s true self – is an uncomfortable and challenging process. Because Ayahuasca holds a mirror up to ourselves, it often results in the projection of our internal landscape onto our external reality. Inside and outside of ceremony, it may appear that our experience is worsening or getting more uncomfortable. This is an important part of the healing process, and is actually indicative of progress and evolution. It is in these moments that we must trust the process. Ayahuasca is bringing these emotions, fears, and discomfort to the surface, in order for you to face them and understand that you have a choice in how you’d like to deal with them, in the moment and as you continue living life. It is through the direct experience of the emotions and traumas we’ve been avoiding that we come to a place of knowledge and wisdom – through facing them, we are able to see and understand the root cause of the imbalance, acknowledge and address it, and transform that which caused us pain into the keys to our liberation.

It is often the case that the root cause of our issues comes from childhood, and the emotions and traumas we dealt with then. Ayahuasca can take us back to this time and revisit memories which shaped the way we perceived life, created our values, and shaped our beliefs. When negative events or emotions happened, our tendency as children was to run away and avoid the pain. This left energetic imprints on us that we carried into our adult life, manifesting in a multitude of ways and practices, including how we handle stress, our predisposition to depression and anxiety, and the way in which we connect with ourselves and others. In this work, we are invited to engage with our inner child, and rescue those parts which still carry pain. By healing the inner child, we heal all that which follows, and can return to a place of authenticity, presence, and peace.

The alchemy of transformation comes from engaging directly with our shadow selves, our emotional pain and discomfort. It is not a process that one can simply “think through” – it is one of the heart, and can only be truly dealt with and released by engaging, experiencing and feeling it. The lessons and wisdom of Ayahuasca often involve a revealing of simple truths, truths which in many cases people already “knew” but simply had never “felt”. It is often the case that those who had never felt the positive emotions they were able to feel through this work, had also never truly let themselves feel the negative emotions that are the precursor to them. Ayahuasca and other plant medicines can take us to the gate, but ultimately it is up to us to walk through, and in order to do so, we must get past our own inner demons standing guard.

Integration

The process of Ayahuasca healing doesn’t end with the close of ceremony. What you do with the lessons you learned and the healing you received is what really determines authentic growth, and as a result, integration is as much – if not more – important than the ceremonies themselves. The earlier you can start to take action on the lessons learned, the better. This includes maintaining a healthy diet, practicing a still mind, connecting to those who will promote your process, taking time for yourself, and engaging fully with the intentions you set for your healing journey. At Arkana, we provide the tools and environment necessary to begin your integration work while you are with us, offering group discussions in between ceremonies to help you understand your experience and learn from others’; following a healthy and delicious Ayahuasca-friendly diet; holding yoga and meditation practices; providing opportunities to connect with your tribe and nature during our guided jungle excursions; and always being available to discuss your experience with you and help you elucidate the lessons and insights from your time with us (both in and out of ceremony).

We also let you know that the really hard work starts when you get home.

There is no doubt that upon your return to your normal life, you will face challenges that test your experience with the medicine. In the Shipibo culture, our shamans often refer to this as the plants “testing” us, and seeing if we truly did learn the lessons we were taught, to earn the growth that we’ve gained. We will face opportunities where we are at a crossroads between choosing to act as our old self, or implementing those lessons and maintaining the awareness that allows us to choose differently this time.

This is why we have implemented our Post-Retreat Integration Program (PRIP), in addition to guidelines and suggestions which help you maintain your connection to the medicine. Through PRIP, we offer free consultations with our transition coordinator, who can help you address and navigate the sometimes murky waters of how to approach your healing process back home, enact healthy habits that you can maintain, share your experience with others, and learn more about plant medicines and shamanism if you’d like to continue on that path. You can continue to check in with us in the weeks and months following your retreat, as you gain further insights and overcome hurdles with the wisdom gained during your time at Arkana. We are honored to provide support for your whole process, before, during, and after your retreat with us.