Ayahuasca #4

The rest of Monday was filled with the continued sense of underlying calm, combined with nervous anticipation. I spent most of the day alone, journalling and just sitting with my fear of what was to come in my first ceremony that evening.

We had another group talk that day, in preparation.

We were taken through how everything would flow, and what to expect. I felt more comfortable after this talk, as our facilitators explained the first ceremony would be a smaller dose of the plant medicine, in order for us each to feel it out, and understand how to work with the Mother over the coming week and in the next three ceremonies.

More comfortable was good, but overall I felt in some form of suspended reality state. The anticipation of what was to come was building.


As the sun sat lower in the sky, I ventured back to my room for a quick shower and to prepare for the evening.

My soul brother, Ilya, had shared with me (from his ayahuasca experience) how he’d loved being in comfortable clothing and wrapped in blankets, and so I thought about what I wanted to wear.

I put on cozy underwear shorts and an equally cozy crop top, with my handmade cotton shawl over the top (the nights are very warm in Costa Rica). I brought with me the blanket I’d found on my most recent trip to Guatemala, along with my rose quartz, smokey quartz and some coins.

(Side note: I have a thing with coins, in that I’ll always pick a penny up off the ground, and I’ll always have coins in the bottom of my bags or in my pockets. It’s my way of attracting financial abundance into my life, of respecting money energetically, now matter how ‘low-value’ the coin is.)

Stoic, I made my way down the dirt road to the Maloca.

Once inside, all our mats were set up around the perimeter of the circular room, and a name tag for all of us was at the end of each mat. The Soltara crew spend time working out the best placement for everyone in the room, including separating anyone who has travelled together.

During our orientation talk, they explained to us this is to ensure we each have our own experience, and are not drawn out of our experience to comfort a loved one who may be struggling. If struggle is what we need to move through, we need to do it alone.

I found my name and sat on my mat.

As I sat I felt the gravity of being here alone, in my own experience, on this mat. I understood what they’d meant. I was here for me, and nothing else mattered for tonight, and for each ceremony to come.

I was here to do the work, and to experience what it was I needing to experience, on my own.


The evening started with a 45 minute yin yoga session, after which the Peruvian healers and facilitators for the evening entered the Maloca and got everything set up in the middle, where their four mats were laid out.

The Maloca was dimly lit with rooftop lighting, and candles were alight in a circle around the centre mats.

At this stage I was getting quite nervous, stepping into the unknown, there was plenty of fear rising in me. What would I see, feel, experience? Would it be scary? Would it be pretty? Would I die? What if I was the one person who would die from ayahuasca? So. Many. Thoughts.

Cascading thoughts.

But… surrender. I’m here.

Everything felt in slow motion as the rooftop lighting was turned off, and the first person got up to drink. I was the fourth mat along and before I knew it was kneeling in front of the healer and facilitators and accepting my first cup of ayahuasca.

I don’t even remember what my intention was that evening (or the next), I remember feeling like there was so much I needed to heal, I didn’t know how to articulate any of it into words. I decided to just send my broken-and-needing-to-heal vibes into the cup.

Down the hatch it went, thick and earthy and not unpleasant.

I was handed a mapacho (hand rolled jungle tobacco) and made my way back to my mat.

Well, it was done. I was in for the ride now.


My experience that first evening, and the following, was very mild in terms of visuals or anything of that nature, and I wasn’t upset about it. Having heard stories of people being shot into parallel realities and into the outer realms of the Universe as we know it, I’d been scared of losing all sense of reality.

That resistance I’d say, was keeping me in my head however, and I spent most of both ceremonies in my thinking mind.

The familiar thoughts ruminating as they always do.

Replaying my most recent relationship, and all the why, why, why and trying to make sense of it all. Feelings of not being enough, and of being unable to forgive myself.

I didn’t throw up.

I didn’t crap myself (it happens).

But I did release in other ways. I yawned a lot, big wide stretching yawns, and I shed tears here and there.

In each ceremony, we’d receive two Icaros. An Icaros is the songs the shamans would sing in order to help our healing process. Shamans spend their lives bonding with the Ayahuasca plant, in the Amazon, including a year living completely alone and with nature. They say they are taught the Icaros by the plants themselves.

Each of the two shamans would come to the end of our mat (one by one, they’d make their way around the room), and perform the Icaros, singing and then finishing by blowing smoke and using flower oils on our heads and faces.

It was pretty special.

The sound of our two shamans singing is something I’ll never forget, and makes my eyes well with tears just now thinking about it.

Once everyone had received two Icaros, the ceremony would be closed, and we were free to go to sleep in the Maloca, or head back to our rooms.

I slept in the Maloca each ceremony night. I love the warm open air, hearing the wind in the trees and the waves crashing below. Plus, I have a real aversion to air conditioning.

I’d have slept in there every night if it was an option!


Both of the first two mornings I woke up early, just as the sky was starting to lighten. I’d leave the Maloca and watch the sunrise from the skydeck with a hot peppermint tea.

Especially that first half of the week, I was very internal.

I spent each of the days journalling and alone. Trying to get to the bottom of things, feeling a lot coming to the surface during each day, but not much in my ceremonies.

At one point on the Tuesday, I was laying in a hammock writing. Still with the why, why, why and trying to figure out and rationalize why my ex-partner had walked out, and how I could get over it. It was the abandonment I’d always feared in relationships.

And then I faced it.

I’d lied to him repeatedly, and when I told him my untruths, it was too much for him. So he left.

I felt the gravity of it all, without the justifications of why I’d lied, of why we’d gotten to that place, of why I’d ended up with things I felt I needed to hide. Without all of it, I just sat in that moment with the rawest truth.

I lied.

This did not feel peaceful or good at all. It was gut wrenching pain. The self-loathing hit hard and I didn’t know how I could ever forgive myself for anything I’d done. I cried, I wrote him a letter. I thought back over my entire life of all the times I’d hidden who I was in one way or another, whether it was outright lying, denying, holding back, or just showing up as something I wasn’t.

It was hard.

I didn’t love who I really was, yet I couldn’t forgive the part of me that had chosen untruth over truth. This was against my values. I knew that, and so I hated myself.

On Wednesday, we had a break from ceremony, and held a sharing circle. A crystal was passed around the group and when it reached each of us, it was our turn to talk.

Others shared their visions and experiences with the Mother.

I had nothing profound to share.

Bursting into tears, I managed to croak out a few sentences. I don’t know how I can ever forgive myself, or love myself. I feel so lost. It’s all I feel right now. Self-loathing and pain.

I passed the crystal on, wondering whether this Ayahuasca experience was going to do anything for me at all.

Trust the medicine is doing it’s work, they’d said.

Even if you’re not feeling anything, or having intense visuals. The Mother is doing her work, and healing you.

It was halfway through the week.

My phone was off.

I wasn’t going anywhere, so I did just what they said.

I trusted the medicine, and kept going. Writing, sitting, being with myself and trusting in the process.

Little did I know, just how much the medicine was working, and what was to come.


This note is the fourth in a six part series on my ayahuasca healing journey, where I’m taking you through my entire experience from how I got to Soltara, what the experience was like, and into my integration post-retreat.

Sarah Riegelhuth