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The lists usually discourage or forbid red meat and pork, salt, hot spices, alcohol (that’s a big one), avocados and a few other items. If you research the “aya diet” you’ll encounter lists of what to eat and some of these differ.

At a minimum all these things should be strictly avoided 48 hours before ceremony, but really two weeks is my rule. If there was ever a time in your life to get turned on to good vegetarian or vegan cuisine (ideally raw), this is the time. The first time I drank aya sexual abstinence was easy because I was between relationships; there was no one to disappoint by skipping the wild thing for a couple of weeks.

An example might be, “I want healing” or “I seek purification” or “I want guidance with the path forward in my life.” If you set your intention as something like, “I wish to clear up the relationship with my mother who makes me so angry sometimes because she keeps comparing me to my brother, and just because he excels academically I know he has a lot of issues she doesn’t know about…” or something like that, you just won’t be able to remember it when you’re in ayahuasca’s thrall. At different ceremonies you may encounter people who surround themselves with stuff: crystals, little vials of different healing potions, favorite objects, shoe options, etc. At a shamanic centre, a mattress will normally be provided and some pillows.

A good intention is kind of like a mantra that you can repeat and come back to if you start losing your way. Let’s assume here, though, that you have to bring your own stuff. Note that this is not the thick kind you inflate with a bicycle pump, but rather the thin kind hikers use, that can be rolled up tight.

It’s common for newbies to be nervous before an ayahuasca ceremony. (You know, the type that allows the Kung Fu masters to break stacks of concrete blocks with a single hand chop.) In the Upper Amazon, Mother Ayahuasca is described as a jealous lover. If you’re seeking a super-duper big-ass experience, try being abstinent for, like, six weeks or longer, if you can manage. Remember, you’re not having a “drug experience” — this is a (something not emphasized enough in descriptions, I feel) and certain things are done that seem odd to a person raised in a non-shamanic culture. In the Amazon, this would be thought of in terms of guarding against evil spirits, dark energies, and so on.

Pity the fool who finds herself backpacking in Peru and decides to drink ayahuasca on a whim after a week of hamburgers and mohitos. Spicy food may not offend the gods so much as your butt and mouth if you vomit or get diarrhea… In Asia they call this preserving one’s — one’s life force — and it’s all about cultivating energy.

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