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Ayahuasca, is regarded as the 'gateway' to the Soul. This article explores this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world
Ayahuasca, is regarded as the 'gateway' to the Soul. This article explores this fascinating plant brew from the Amazon Rainforest. Ayahuasca is the jungle medicine of the upper Amazon. It is made from the ayahuasca vine ( Banisteriopsis Caapi) and the leaf of the Chacruna plant (Psychotria Viridis). The two make a potent medicine, which takes one into the visionary world. The vine is an inhibitor, which contains harmala and harmaline among other alkaloids, and the leaf contains vision-inducing alkaloids. As with all natural medicines, it is a mixture of many alkaloids that makes their unique properties.
My first real encounter with the plant world of the shamans was when I first arrived in the Amazon some twelve years ago. The moment I stepped off the aeroplane in Iquitos it felt as if I had been hit by bolt of energy. I felt so energised that I didn’t sleep for two days, my senses were at a heightened state of awareness, and it felt as if I could hear the heartbeat of the rainforest itself.
Iquitos is a city in the Amazon rainforest, there are no roads (completed anyway) to it. The only way to get there is via aeroplane or by river boat. The city in the 19th century was the centre of the Rubber industry but by the early 20th century the rubber trade had moved to the Far East, and the city had fallen into neglect and disrepair. It is now a place without an apparent purpose resplendent in its post-colonial splendour literally in the middle of nowhere, a true frontier town.
I recall my first moments in Iquitos standing on the Malecon at the edge of the city overlooking the river and some 3000 miles of pure rainforest spread out in front of me, an exhilarating experience which still fills me with wonder and awe.
I had come to Iquitos out of a long-standing interest and desire to experience at first hand the living tradition of plant spirit medicines and of course, the magical brew of Ayahuasca of which I had heard so much about.
I was not to be disappointed; my first sessions with a shaman in an open jungle clearing changed my view and understanding of life, a spiritual epiphany. I experienced being in the very centre of creation. I had the realisation and experience that I was not separate but an intrinsic part, a discrete element in the vast cosmic mind or field of consciousness, and that we were all connected. All part of the one great mind, and our experience of ‘separateness’ was no more than an illusion, generated by our being in our bodily vehicle which housed our senses.
One of my most profound experiences in an Ayahuasca ceremony, when I found myself transported to what I felt as the centre of creation. I was in the cosmos witnessing totality, planets, stars, nebulas, and universes forming. Everywhere stretched vast patterns of intricate geometric and fluid complexity constantly changing size and form. The chanting of the shaman was filling every cell with an electric force, every port of my body was vibrating and it felt as if I was being bodily lifted into the air. I was in a temple of sound, vibration and bliss. Gathered around me were giants in ornate costumes of gold and multi-coloured feathers blowing smoke and fanning me, these were the spirits of Ayahuasca, and then this soft gentle and exquisitely soft and sensual voice spoke to me of creation and the universal mind.
To reinforce this poetic insight, the words appeared before me in bold neon like script. When I related this after the session to the maestro said, “Ayahuasca wanted you to understand”, and he continued; “Ayahuasca opens doors to different dimensions. Often the mind can be obstructed from accessing inner knowledge. Ayahuasca can open up the mind to abstract things that cannot be seen in the material world. If I hadn’t had the experience, I would not be able to believe that a tree could have its own world or have a spirit. But when you begin to discover these dimensions personally, little by little you begin to recognise and accept the mystery of it.”
Howard G. Charing, is an international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans & healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. With Peter Cloudsley he organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest. He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism.