Ayahuasca: Bad Medicine

by Naren Duffy, Customer Services, London, UK

I recently watched a short presentation given by the author Graham Hancock, relating his experiences with the hallucinogenic drink ‘ayahuasca’, and how he used it to stop smoking marijuana, among other things. Ayahuasca is a drink used in shamanistic rituals originating in the Amazon jungle, and it is used sometimes in the West for treating drug addiction as well as emotional difficulties, or by people who are interested in exploring exotic traditions from around the world.

Ayahuasca can be brewed using several different plants, but of the plants used, one will contain DMT (dimethytriptamine) and another an MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitor. MAO is a chemical that is present in our liver which serves to break down toxins so that they will be rendered inactive and not end up in the blood stream. DMT occurs in small amounts naturally in our bodies and is linked to dreaming and other functions, but when it is ingested it is naturally broken down by MAO. Therefore an inhibitor is necessary to make DMT have any effect when it is drunk. DMT can also be extracted from a plant and the extract smoked directly into the lungs to produce an extremely intense hallucinogenic experience which lasts a couple of minutes, while the ayahuasca experience can be equally intense and last around four hours, possibly longer.

I took ayahuasca twice in my life and smoked extracted DMT once, and would have considered these to have been quite positive experiences at the time. I took LSD and psilocybin mushrooms on many occasions, and I was a bit of a champion for the use of these substances during that period of my life. I had had varying experiences with psychedelics and hallucinogenics, from the ecstatically blissful to the terrifyingly horrible, and bought into many of the claims that people (including Mr. Hancock) have made, that the way forward in humanity’s evolution is by using mind-expanding substances with the intention to evolve our consciousness and reclaim our destiny as the divine beings that we are.

It is pretty obvious that at this point in our history we are having to deal with a near perfect storm of difficulties on the planet we live on. From health epidemics, to wars, to general society breaking down in ways that we have not experienced in recent memory, humanity is struggling. Understandably, we are looking for ways to fix things and fix ourselves, whether that is through religion, money, technology, good causes, or so-called ancient practices which promise at least to make everything more manageable, and at most to change the world for the better. The problem is that, whatever we choose to heal the situation we find ourselves in, cannot come from the same place that caused the problem in the first place, otherwise we just end up with a different flavour of the same issue further down the line, as history can attest. What is needed is a change in consciousness, this is true, but it is very important to be clear on what consciousness we want to change to, and from where will the change come?

During the ayahuasca ceremonies that I attended the participants sat in a circle for the entire night until dawn. Ayahuasca was drunk two or more times by everyone during the night while the person leading the ceremony sang songs and moved around the room. In between the people seated in the circle were small buckets or bowls, the purpose of which soon became apparent. To quote Mr. Hancock: “…the ayahuasca brew has a foul, foul taste, really, really hideous, and a dreadful, dreadful smell. And after you’ve drunk your cup, you’ll find in about 45 minutes or so you’ll find that you are sweating, you’re feeling nauseous. Pretty soon you may well be vomiting, you may well have diarrhoea…” Thus the little buckets dotted around the room. Throwing up was considered to be a good thing and that you were fully surrendering to the ayahuasca.

The question that always has bothered me about this experience was this: if someone said that they ate or drank something which smelled horrible, tasted terrible and made them throw up, what would your response or thought be? Mine would be that they clearly ingested something that did not agree with them, and they probably shouldn’t put that into their body again. All of those physical responses that are listed in the quote above are pretty basic primal bodily responses and functions to ensure that we do not eat something that is harmful to ourselves, and if we do, to get it out of us as quickly as possible.

And yet, ayahuasca is called “medicine” or even given the title of “The Medicine”. But this medicine clearly does not work in harmony with the body. Peoples’ bodies quite obviously demonstrate this by the reactions that they have. In order to make ayahuasca even work, it is necessary to suppress the body’s natural function, which would normally render it ineffective. What is used to override this evidence is the belief in the payoff of the visions and thoughts that the ayahuasca brings, and that this will bring healing and evolution to the participant and to the planet at large.

But there is an interesting point here. What kind of evolution is this bringing?

As mentioned before, we are living in a time of immense suffering among humanity. But what is the source of this suffering? Who or what is it caused by? This is a huge question, but for the sake of space I would put forth that it stems from the intellectually mind-driven human being who is disconnected from the rest of humanity and acts without consideration for his fellow man… and more importantly, without consideration and love for himself. If a person was truly connected in full to himself and the rest of the people he shares this planet with, and then felt the devastation that might be caused by his actions to himself or another, that person would not do those actions. However, we all know that devastating actions are committed on a daily, if not hourly, basis. So how do we perform them? How do we allow them to happen? We use our mind to intellectually overcome that which our true feelings and primal responses are telling us to not do. How do we know these feelings and responses? Through that which we use to feel: our body.

And so, if someone chooses to drink something that their body is, in no uncertain terms, saying “I do not want that in me” and they drink it anyway, more than once, the only way they could possibly do that is by disconnecting from their body and using their mind to overpower it. Therefore any experience that comes thereafter is a product of the mind’s override. Any perceived benefit that comes out of such an experience will be from the mind, which is acting in disregard to the body that it lives in. And it is the disconnected mind that has caused the devastation we are currently having to deal with on this planet.

If we are going to change our consciousness, does it not make sense to do it in consideration of all of us, and not part of us? Our experience so far in human history has been that living while ignoring a part of our wholeness has landed us in a mess, which is going to take humanity a very long time to heal.

Like Mr. Hancock, I also stopped smoking marijuana after using it habitually for over 14 years. I didn’t suddenly change overnight. I undertook a personal process, and over a fairly short amount of time I no longer had it in my life, and never will again. The path to stopping for me was started by learning to love myself. All of myself, without exception. No drugs involved, no cold turkey, no rehab, no rituals. What started me off was hearing a single sentence, which stopped me in my tracks:

“No one does drugs or drinks alcohol because they feel good about themselves.”

I realised that I had fooled myself into thinking that I was feeling good when I was high or tripping, but in fact overall I was feeling less than I knew I could. I was having some intense (and a few horrible) experiences, which I glamourised, but the glamour faded and eventually I had to go back to living life. A life in which I was not actually feeling what was there to be felt, because I was forever looking towards the next time I could trip or party, and on a daily basis I was dulling myself with cannabis. I was dulling myself because I did not like who I was, but feeling my dulled self made me like myself even less, so I wanted to dull myself more. But why did I decide to dull myself in the first place? What was it that I did not want to feel? What was so bad about me that I thought that inhaling marijuana smoke into my lungs every day was going to make me better than who I was without it?

I thought long and hard on this, and I came up with nothing. Despite all of the stresses and ‘bad things’ that have happened in my life, there is nothing in life that is not worth feeling. There is nothing in life worth burying, no matter how bad it is. One of the great illusions that we are fed from childhood is to “get on with life”, and that feeling the truth of what life really is gets in the way of living. So we come up with ways to fool ourselves into thinking that we are living, when in fact we are letting life slip away into the bottom of a glass, or burn up at the end of a joint, or get lived by someone else on TV or in books, or we hope that some guru/ preacher/ person-on-a-stage can tell us what life is about so we don’t have to really feel it for ourselves. Because if we feel our life and the truth of it in both its ugliness and its glory, then it is ours, and we don’t want that responsibility.

So I decided that after trying so long to change things by doing the same thing, I was going to do something different. I chose to take responsibility for what my life felt like and let myself feel it. And everything changed.

In taking responsibility for my life I have come to know that substances like ayahuasca and marijuana, or any practice which requires us to override and to disregard any part of our whole being, will only ever continue our dissatisfaction with life. These are ways to hide from the truth of life, not to connect to it. Our dissatisfaction with our lives comes from the ways we choose to live them, and nothing else. Make truly different choices and our lives change not just for ourselves, but for those around us too. The trustworthiness of any guidance back to our divine self has to be determined by feeling how it feels in our bodies in every way, not by ignoring our bodies in any way. True divinity is indivisible and encompasses the all-ness of us as beings on every level. Any less than that and we just end up with more of what we have already got.

549 thoughts on “Ayahuasca: Bad Medicine

  1. I have engaged with recreational drugs in the past, the sense of relief we can get from them is second to none. Perhaps thats why we often hear people say I am flying high, because for the time while we are intoxicated we may not feel our wounds and feel weightless. However, these never disappear, they do not heal by being ignored – they simply get cemented deeper into our body until such time that we are ready to deal with it.

  2. All drugs separate us from our body and the only way to return to who we are is through living in full in our body and let God express through our vehicle. So it is to honor our body and listen to every signal.

  3. As I connect to my body more, it’s become more obvious that living by the disconnected mind doesn’t work, quickly fizzles out or blows up in my face. And yet I still do follow that lead. As you’ve shared Naren, the key to all of this is to feel life. My feelings are a much truer guide than the mind, but allowing it full control of life has not yet occurred.

  4. Wow Naren, in this short blog you have brought amazing clarity to the energetic results of these mind altering substances and how easy it is to fool ourselves that we are addressing a source of humanity’s suffering.
    ” I would put forth that it stems from the intellectually mind-driven human being who is disconnected from the rest of humanity and acts without consideration for his fellow man… and more importantly, without consideration and love for himself.

  5. This is a superb blog. You have made some great points. Heralding the mind and overriding the body being a huge part on how we don’t want to deal with life. ‘But what is the source of this suffering? Who or what is it caused by? This is a huge question, but for the sake of space I would put forth that it stems from the intellectually mind-driven human being who is disconnected from the rest of humanity and acts without consideration for his fellow man… and more importantly, without consideration and love for himself.’ Nailed it completely.

  6. Wanting the answers but not being willing to do the work to truly access them and instead going the short-cut route…only leads to more emptiness under an illusion of enlightenment.

  7. We have a track record of eulogising experiences which we then get to see are super poisonous to our body. Our capability to override what we feel is clearly extreme. At least if we accepted this as a fact, we’d be able to admit that life may not be as it seems. Thank you Narren for this stunning blog.

  8. Just the word ‘ayahuasca’ is enough to send me running for the hills! Interesting how we can feel this and yet can be dawn or pulled into experimenting with substances we know really aren’t healthy for us. I remember being in Fiji at 21 and being asked to try some kind of “authentic” drink that made your lips go numb. I didn’t really want to drink it but didn’t want to look like nerd for saying no in amongst a group of people. The sense of emptiness underneath (and the need to belong as a consequence) can run so deep that we can override this knowing and only bitter experience can teach us what we knew all along. As shared here – what about simply connecting to what is already there? Since committing to this I have much more of a lived authority from a foundation of true self-worth.

  9. It is interesting that if you ask any of those who do drugs or go to the extent you did Narren how they feel about themselves, most if not all will say that they feel they do not like themselves. Is this not where the keys lie in healing the issue?

  10. To feel and consider the whole of our being rather than entertain the wondrous solutions that our minds come up with to make us feel temporarily better is indeed true medicine, and a healing rather than a cure of symptoms.

  11. When we push ourselves through life by ‘getting on with it’, we miss out on the magic life can bring. We are so focused towards a goal and achieving that we miss opportunities that come our way. It requires an enormous amount of effort/energy to suppress our expression, that it is not a bit of wonder that we take substances to shut it down, all because we simply chose to align to a belief or ideal (intended) that does not serve and support us.

  12. We are fooled indeed when we consider any drug to be the medicine in restoring our true nature in life. Fact is that we are fooled by the way we are living from the given ideals and beliefs that we have adopted as the reality and in that we have comfortably forgotten that there is another way that is already housed in our inner heart. The Way of The Livingness when lived, is to me the medicine we have been looking for and available to us in a very simple and practical way.

  13. “Whatever we choose to heal the situation we find ourselves in, cannot come from the same place that caused the problem in the first place”. Einstein also spoke of this, that we cannot use the same thinking or we end up with a different solution but same flavour and still spinning in the same thinking. Using drugs to get out of the situation we find ourselves in in society is clearly not the answer. Although those who use drugs champion them at the time, the onlooker can see that this is not ‘it’. Drug use comes from the same pool of thinking that got us into the current mess in the first place.

  14. Whether we admit that this is happening or not, a mind that acts in disregard to the body that it is enhoused within, hands the body over to the unseen forces that will then have their ‘wicked way’ with it. For us to champion this as ‘evolution’ is one of the greatest acts of involution when we consider that our evolution is a return to Soul (love) that is dependent on the mind and body working in harmony with, and not at odds to, each other.

  15. I love how this article totally debunks the illusion that we can find enlightenment and evolution through the use of a hallucinogenic drug. Healing – if we want to be real about it – cannot be in parts, in the fragments of our mind going on its own ‘enlightened’ trip. Healing encompasses the whole of us, our body included. The intake of ayahuasca is a poison to the body and in the illusion that this is enlightening us, it actually takes us even further away from our Soul.

  16. I like the understatedness of your bad medicine headline. Such substances and I would include alcohol in this ought to play no part in modern day life. They have the power to own us and turn us into a shadow of our true selves.

  17. If we are seeking a connection with God/the universe/ourselves then we have to look no further than within ourselves.

  18. You totally nailed it here Naren by exposing that if you have to separate the mind and the body to evolve, it is not true evolution because true evolution cannot have separation in it. True evolution is for everyone and must consider the whole.

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