Ayahuasca tourism is increasingly popular with Westerners seeking healing from physical illness or mental anguish, or simply a sense of meaning amid the growing alienation in our culture.
Ayahuasca can help people overcome addictions to substances, sexual compulsion, and other self-harming behaviours.
In our quiet narrow pursuit of cure, we fail to comprehend the essence of healing. We are so set in our approach that we ignore the latest findings of our own science.
We tend to see people’s illnesses as isolated, accidental and unfortunate events rather than as the outcomes of lives lived in a psychological and social context; as the body’s expressions of experiences, beliefs and lifelong patterns of relating to Self and to the World.
Such a holistic understanding informs many aboriginal wisdom teachings.
Like all plant-based indigenous practices around the World, the use of Ayahuasca arises from a tradition where mind and body are seen as inseparable, in sickness and in health.
The plant is not a drug in the Western sense nor is it a chemical that one takes chronically to alter the biology of a diseased nervous system, as for example anti-depressants do. And it is far from being a recreational psychedelic ingested for escapist purposes.
In its proper ceremonial setting, under compassionate and experienced guidance, the plant – or, as tradition has it, the spirit of the plant – puts people in touch with their repressed pain and trauma, the very factors that drive all dysfunctional behaviours.
Consciously experiencing our primal pain loosens its hold on us.
Thus may Ayahuasca achieve in a few sittings what many years of psychotherapy can only aspire to. It may also allow people to re-experience inner qualities long been missing in action, such as wholeness, trust, Love and a sense of possibility. People quite literally remember themselves.
The documented unity of mind and body means that such experiential transformation, if genuine, can powerfully affect the hormonal apparatus, the nervous and immune systems, and all organs such as the brain, the gut, and the heart. Hence the healing potential of the plant, seen through the lens of Western science.
It is not all good news. As with any modality, Ayahuasca can be exploited for financial gain by unscrupulous practitioners or even for sexual gratification of healers preying on vulnerable clients, most often young females. Such cases are notorious in the Ayahuasca World.
Nor is the plant a panacea. Nothing works for everyone. Its very power to penetrate the psyche can awaken deeply repressed hostility and rage. All the more reason, then, to approach Ayahuasca with caution, profound respect, and only in the right context.