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How Can I Prepare for an Ayahuasca Ceremony?

The practices and dietary protocols followed leading up to a ceremony are known as a dieta ⁠— and though the word most obviously refers to food intake, the preparatory practices extend to behavioral abstinences and spiritual practices as well. 

Here are the overarching principles of each.

Behavioral Preparation

The most glaring change in behavior that is suggested before meeting the plant spirits is abstinence from sexual activity, both with others as well as on your own. 

Shamanism understands sexual intimacy as a form of energetic connection between the people involved; it would make sense then, that in ceremony you might feel the energy or presence of that person in a strong way. This can lead to a confusing experience, distracting from your ability to focus on your own healing and to see your connection with the other person clearly.

Sexual activity with yourself is said to deplete the individual of spiritual energy that would otherwise be used in the healing process during the Ayahuasca ceremony, limiting your ability to dive deep and preventing the medicine from communicating with you clearly. 

The recommended length of time varies, so follow the recommendation of your healer; most retreat centers recommend at least 1-2 weeks before and after the ceremony.

Physical and Dietary Preparation

It's best to simplify your diet as much as possible in the months and, in particular, two weeks leading up to ceremony.

  • Eliminate processed foods, colorings, and preservatives

  • Avoid salty, sugary, and spicy foods

  • Cut out animal products, particularly meat

  • Eliminate all addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco (though the curandero will likely smoke a mapacho, or ceremonial tobacco), and recreational drugs.

    If you're attending an ayahuasca retreat for your ceremony, chances are you have to travel to get to the retreat center. Between jet lag and dehydration, unhealthy airport food and reduced immune response, travel can be a stressor on your body, so most retreat centers will let you settle in and recuperate for a day or two before the ceremony.

    Work with your doctor to determine if you can also reduce or eliminate your reliance on prescription drugs where possible, particularly if you are on MAOI or SSRI drugs.

    These medications will interfere directly with the effects of Ayahuasca and, in some cases, the interaction can have serious health repercussions. Do not attempt to work with Ayahuasca while taking these medications.

Spiritual Preparation

Step back and take a look at your current lifestyle. 

Are there pockets of negative energy that you can reduce or eliminate in preparation for your journey? 

If you live in the middle of New York City, for example, can you take a trip to the forest to connect with nature and clear your head before you travel? 

The spiritual preparation for a healing experience involves clearing your mind and your energetic space. Take a break from your television and Netflix subscription, cut down your internet time, and spend more time in quiet solitude. Get out into nature as much as you can to breathe and connect with Earth. 

Your Experience Will Be Unique

This is incredibly important to remember: two people who prepare for a ceremony in the same exact way are highly likely to have two very different experiences. 

The ayahuasca tea offers each individual what he or she needs ⁠— and needs are incredibly variable. So while you might prefer to have some sense of what’s coming, the best way to prepare your mind for the night is to let go of your expectations and become open to possibility. 

There is no use in judging your experience as right or wrong, or, better or worse than anyone else’s. It simply is.

Ayahuasca Diet Before Ceremony

Simply stated, eat basic, bland foods without red meat (including pork) and dairy for at least two weeks or more prior to ceremony and immediately afterward. Eat no less than four hours before the start of the ceremony, and even then it is best to eat soft foods and vegetable broths to be gentle on the stomach.

At least 6 weeks before:

Any medication that has an effect on the serotonin system, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and MAOI drugs, should be cleared from your body through a slow weaning process with your doctor.

At least 4 weeks before:

Eliminate pharmaceutical drugs (prescription & over the counter). This includes allergy pills, hormonal supplements, NSAIDs, and more. Again, always consult with a medical professional.

At least 2 weeks before, eliminate:

  • Sex of any sort, including self-pleasure or erotic fantasizing

  • Alcohol

  • Cannabis 

  • Violent or disturbing media

  • Recreational drugs of any kind, especially synthetic DMT or other psychoactive substances

  • Salt and salty foods

  • Spicy food

  • Processed foods

  • Pork, red meat, cured meats

  • Cheese

At least 1 week before, eliminate:

  • Sugar, natural or artificial sweeteners 

  • Fermented foods

  • Fried foods

  • Yeast or yeast products

  • Vinegar or pickled foods

  • Caffeine (coffee, caffeinated tea, synthetic energy drinks)

  • Dairy products, especially yogurt

  • Animal fats, including butter

  • Nutritional supplements like protein powders that may contain tyramines

  • Sweets and chocolate

  • Synthetic soaps, perfumes, toiletries, etc.

Do eat:

  • Unsalted vegetables and vegetable broths

  • Well-cooked whole grains

  • Organic chicken or turkey

  • Low-sugar fruits

  • Coconut or olive oil, sparingly

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated

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