To Drink, or Not To Drink Ayahuasca: That is the Question.

After a fair number of ayahuasca ceremonies now here in South America, I have observed something I want to share. I used to think ayahuasca was for everybody, that the whole world should know about ayahuasca and be as excited as I am. I do not believe this anymore.

What I have come to understand through practicing this shamanic plant work with skilled facilitators, is that ayahuasca is an amplifier. That means it takes whatever is going on with you and gives it steroids. This allows you to see yourself, making things that seemed subtle and elusive super obvious. So it is potentially a fantastic tool for self knowledge and in turn, the possibility of transformation.

What I didn’t understand before is that if you do not desire real transformation or do not have access to some kind of skill set for dealing with your own garbage, ayahuasca increases your problems. And that sucks.

As my South American mentor once illustrated the problem to me as I was expressing my initial enthusiasm, imagine if George Bush took ayahuasca. That was a scary thought. The bottom line is: everything depends on your intention. So if you are thinking you might like to take this gritty brew, a good question to ask yourself, in your heart of hearts, is, “What do you really want?”

And remember, just because someone grew up in the jungle and calls themselves a Shaman, does not necessarily give them the credentials to responsibly facilitate your sacred experience. Many shamans use ayahuasca to gain power over others and/ or sabotage enemies. Moreover, they may or may not have your well being as a priority. So know who you are with.

Painting by ayahuasquero, Pablo Amaringo

Painting by ayahuasquero, Pablo Amaringo


Which brings me to a very common issue I have seen within the ayahuasca world in general. That issue is ego. And I’m talking ego on steroids. An ego size medium, left unrestrained, becomes ego size extra-large in almost no time flat.

And I see this choice which occurs in myself. Ayahuasca amplifies thoughts and tendencies so I have a tough time ignoring them. It amplifies things I like and things I don’t like. And in each moment of facing different aspects of myself, I have a decision to make: to feed or not to feed. THAT is the question.

And I mean literally feed. Trust me. Thoughts are energy, and ego-based thoughts give rise to demanding little (or big!) energetic beasts. I have seen good people whose true nature, upon being revealed by ayahuasca, were helpless to the temptations and the lies of this unsavory part that each one of us possesses.

So with ayahuasca I observe, as through a magnifying glass, the extraordinary processes that go on within me on an ordinary basis. And perhaps most extraordinary, I see first hand how my life is created by decisions that I make moment to moment. The difference is that before I observed them, they were unconscious, based on out-dated conditioning and things that actually work in opposition to my conscious parts. They just sort of “happened.” Now, with the help of this amazing “psycho-active” tea, I see.  And with this comes nothing less than the possibility of a new life.

So ayahuasca is not going to “save you.” But it is going to give you a grand opportunity to apply inner work to yourself. First I recommend asking yourself, “What is my intention?” and, “Am I willing to do tough inner work: to see and acknowledge parts of myself that may be super uncomfortable?” If everything seems in order, find a really good place to drink this ancient elixir, guided by a skilled facilitator who is practiced in the realms of self.


See the related article by Silvia Polivoy, PhD., called “Seeking Higher Consciousness with Sacred Plants.



  • Jungle says:

    Good points, Ana. I agree that we should evaluate our intentions before making a decision whether to work with ayahuasca or not. The experience is not to be taken lightly especially if the brew is particularly strong. Some people seem to have an idea that this miracle experience is going to give them the changes they desire without paying for it. And it comes with a price, which is to let go of the stuff which is not serving us. Albeit the stuff that we are very addicted to…

  • Ana Cortez says:

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, the addictions we do not think of as “addictions,” but that limit us sublimely yet ultimately. I love what you say that the price is the letting go. So true. There is an old saying this reminds me of, “Sacrifice your suffering.”

  • gabriela says:

    Hi! Thank you for sharing this important issues! I was trying to listen to this podcast below, but it was not working. could you please give me another link or so? Thank you again!

    • ana says:

      Hi Gabriela,
      This interview was removed due to political controversy. I hope to have it back up again at some point soon. Make sure you are on the newsletter at this site as I will make an announcement. Thanks for your interest! It is a fascinating interview.

  • Axx says:

    An excellent article! Thank you for sharing Ana.

    This characteristic is true of all plant medicines, in their own way; something I realised with another medicine, which could easily be misused.

    Your point is particularly pertinent for those who continue to work with the medicine over and above an initial ‘resetting’ experience. I see a lot of expectation that ‘the medicine will do the work’, with people keep turning up to go ‘deeper’ or ‘higher’, without having covered the ground first.

    Something that I would add is that there is also the question of agency, who is the captain of the ship?; when you work with plant medicine you invite passengers on board for the journey, in which it is important that you are clear about and can steer your own course, rather than abdicating it to the medicine. All passengers have their own journeys and itineraries, which are intrinsically different to the potential and possibilities of our own individual path. However, much they may be our friends, willing to teach and guide us, they also have their own life and desires.

    With Love,


  • y says:

    so when is zoe7 interview coming back?

Leave a Reply to gabriela Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *