In my last article “Is drinking Ayahuasca Safe?” I talked about the small number of health and psychological risks associated with drinking Ayahuasca. In this article I want to talk about another ‘risk’, which is probably one of the most common problems that some people encounter after an Ayahuasca retreat. It’s not really a risk, just something you should be aware of.
It’s the problem of integrating back into normal everyday life when you go back home after a retreat; because for some people it’s not easy.
Being on an Ayahuasca retreat is often a profoundly beautiful, consciousness-expanding, heart-opening and life-changing experience that you hope will never end. You can find yourself deeply connecting with a beautiful group of people, mostly all on a similar wavelength, and you may feel like you want these people inÂ your life forever, because you know that very few people back home will be able to understand what you’ve just experienced. How can you possibly explain to your friends back home that you’ve just spent a week communing with a powerful and sacred plant consciousness that has healed you, nurtured you, taught you, and shown you a love that is more powerful than anything you had previously dared to imagine could be real?
After experiencing Ayahuasca you sometimes wake to discover your old paradigms have shatteredÂ into a million pieces, and there’s no way of putting them back together and nor do you even want to. Â And then suddenlyÂ youÂ realise that the world you were part of is even more screwed up than you Â thought . Â Oh, but wait, now you have to go back and live there again! Ouch!
The bright, natural colours of the jungle and feelings of deep love and serenity give way to a grey and cold jungle of a different kind, and you feel like you haven’t actually gone home, but landed on an entirely different planet. Everything is too fast and out of whack, and people are rude and stressed out and complaining all the time. Â Yet they won’t listen to your kind words of advice on how to relax and trust in spirit, and nor do they seem remotely interested in your amazing tales of the jungle and the spiritual realities you experienced with the medicine. In fact, they talk to you like you’re the one who’s gone completely raving mad!
“What’s wrong with these stupid people!? Why don’t they get it!? Help! Get me out of here!” is a common cry from people who have returned home to the madness that is western civilisation.
Some people also have a really hard time adjusting back into their job if it’s not something that brings any joy or meaning to their lives.
Now of course these problems won’t happen to everyone. If you already live close to nature, and/or have a wide circle of friends who are also on a conscious/spiritual path then integrating back into life outside the jungle probably won’t cause you any serious problems. Your friends will probably be keen to hear all about your stories and they will at least somewhat be able to relate to your experiences. And if you loved your job before the retreat then you will most likely keep loving it after the retreat.
However, if you’re someone who already feels a little alienated in western society, have a job you hate, and you lack a support group of friends who share your spiritual interests, then your feelings of alienation and/or loneliness could become more intense upon your return home.
So how do you avoid that?
The only way to deal with the friends issue is to start making new friends who share your interests. And unless you live in small town out in the middle of nowhere then this shouldn’t be as difficult as you think. You might just have to step outside your comfort zone a little and start meeting new people.
Look for interesting events in your local area that will attract like-minded people. This could include lectures, workshops, conferences, meditation/yoga groups, or even local retreats. If you have a local new-age bookstore or conscious cafÃ© (ie organic/veggie/vegan/juice bar etc) there’s often notice boards advertising events. Also make a point just to hang out at those places because you will find that you will often meet interesting like-minded people just by being there.
Also check out websites such as Eventful, and Meetup.com to find events or groups of like-minded people. There’s nearly always a lot more going on than you think, and there are always good connections to be made, but sometimes you just have to put in a little effort to go looking for them.
If you hate your job before the retreat, then chances are that you will hate it even more when you return home. There’s not much you can do about that except start looking for a job doing something that really interests you, or perhaps even start your own business. I know it’s easy to say that, and harder to actually do, but you can achieve it,Â and people are doing it for themselves all the time. Again, it comes down to using your initiative and making things happen.
At some point you have to decide what’s truly important to you, and what it is that you love doing. If your old friends are important, and if a job you hate feels important for some reason then by all means stick with them. Otherwise change! change! change!
Ayahuasca will change your consciousness (temporarily, at least) and show you new ways of being, new ways of perceiving, and will probably show you new ways that you can improve your life. But then when you get back home it’s all up to you. This is where integration begins and the real work starts, and in many ways you’re on your own. Only you can do it. You will quickly realise you have a choice. You can easily slip back into comfortable old patterns and bad habits – and most likely remain unhappy. Or you can take control of your own destiny and realise that your life can become whatever you want it to be â€“ but only if you make the effort and truly integrate the lessons you’ve learnt.