What is Ayahuasca Spiritual Integration?
We hear the term “integration” used often within the Ayahuasca community. It’s for a reason. Without personal aftercare, acclimation and integration of our ceremonial experiences, a person can be left with newfound information they feel they can’t use, sometimes causing more internal strife now that they know what they’re missing. Ayahuasca spiritual integration is the key to allowing the Medicine work to “take”, and show up not only within ourselves, but in the physical world around us.
Acclimation vs Integration
There is a regular amount of energetic acclimation that often happens after big shifts (including a return to collective consciousness and all the anxiety, etc in that, that may trigger until we adjust). This process used to take me about 3-4 days after returning home, but it’s different for everyone.
Energetic acclimation is different than integration. If you’re in the initial acclimation stage (especially if you had huge purges) try putting cold water on your arms, head and chest (shower if it’s serious) or blow tobacco, palo santo or sage over yourself while your body is getting used to the new energetic now. Don’t fret – this is uncomfortable but normal. Just wait it out. Try not to schedule work for a couple days after you get back.
For those of us a spiritual path, the actual integration piece can come in the form of language that we may already know (be it on a mental or experiential level), which can help guide the language and framework as to how to apply what we’re learning. This is where the actual “work” comes in. In some ways, the ceremony itself is the easy part.
For integration to be effecting, preparation is vital. If we’re past that point, it can still be done, but it’s always better to be as prepared on the front end to give yourself a soft place to land when it comes to integrate. Some of the key elements to preparation include taking inventory, creating structures, and connecting with intuition and flow.
Taking inventory relates to taking a good, hard look as to where things stand in the current moment. Ask yourself in a vulnerable space, why is it that you want to work with the Ayahuasca Medicine in the first place? What are you looking to gain from the experience? What do you want to see changed in your world? What have you done thus far in order to make that happen? Are you willing to see what needs to be seen (or go through a physical or emotional purging process) that may be required to allow that energetic shift to happen within the body?
Some of the aspects may be obvious (I want to come into my true self and life purpose, I want to get healthy, I want to connect with people on a deeper level, etc.) Some of the hindrances may be more subtle, like false core beliefs about self or fed by the collective consciousness (I’m not inherently good enough, I don’t deserve it, I can’t be healthy, I’m not lovable, I’m too weird for society, etc.)
Recognizing and applying language to these aspects are vital to be able to step out of them, seeing them as they truly are. It creates a space where we know intuitively that these things aren’t true, but we can’t get our minds to fully believe that yet. Gathering as much intel about yourself and false beliefs you hold can prepare you for what you see in ceremony (as sometimes you may see the deeper truth about yourself, but other times you may see the false belief out-pictured in vision/energetic form and it’s important to know that it’s still a false belief showing up to be handled.)
Creating structures is a way to make sure your spiritual development stays at the forefront of your approach to life, so that it doesn’t get swallowed by the collective norm of running around trying to deal. Structures can include anything from having a spiritual practice (meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating regiment, etc) from having friends who understand and are on the same spiritual journey (within the Medicine or not), to making professional support such as spiritual counseling, life coaching, psychotherapy, healing, etc ready to go before you get back.
Taking the time to develop the connection and trust with these people on the front end will be vital if you need them in the clutch later. Try to have at least one person skilled in spiritual process work (the digging down to the deeper levels – should be guided by your own intuition, not their’s) as this aspect has often been the make or break tool I’ve seen over the years of people working in the Medicine. Other structures include making sure your physical space is in order before you go (read The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo for guidance) and that your finances are in order so you’re not walking back into a shitshow upon return.
Intuition and Flow
The actual spirit piece of this cannot be undervalued. Taking time to sit with your spirit, and feel in your intuition whether the Ayahuasca spiritual path is right for you to begin with is a must (there are many roads to the same place – and the pace of the Medicine is not necessarily the most efficient for everyone. Not to mention medical/psychiatric contradictions, etc.)
Feel if it’s the right time, or if there’s more front-end work to be done before embarking on your next ceremony. This rings true throughout the journey – after five years of apprenticing and co-running a center in Peru, I was sent back to the States to learn how to live in society in a new marriage and motherhood role.
It was harder than any ceremony I’d ever had; and I learned just as much. I felt a push-back on participating in ceremony for another five years so I could have this imperative growth experience outside of ceremony (even though I wanted nothing more than to drink!)
I had to be patient, even when I wasn’t. When the time came, I started getting an intuitive pull back to Peru, while simultaneously the energetic doors opened and the flow fluidly landed me back in ceremony.
Basically, you can’t micromanage this shit, and the harder you push up against a closed Universe wall, the more tumultuous your experience will be. Know the difference between your own fear in the way and the Universe telling you it’s not the right time. Use your spiritual process work person to support you with this if needed, but it’s really important to be clear.
Also, sometimes there are physical barriers that are in the way where the timing just doesn’t make sense. Don’t blow your savings and leave your family on a whim to work on yourself. If you set the intention and work towards it, the Universe and Medicine will support that process in a way that is gentle on everyone.
If all else fails and it’s really not flowing, dig underneath with process work to find out why. While there are times to “power through” something within the mind/ego construct, forcing the Universe is never the way.
Anyone who has participated in Ayahuasca ceremony is familiar with the infamous purging process. Basically, it’s how the body realigns more towards its natural state, release pent-up emotions, toxins, or belief systems that are in the way. This can be gentle, or it can be brutal. I’ve found the level of intensity often correlates with our general approach to life and ourselves.
I was a “hard way” person by default thanks to my stubborn, arrogant ego which made me have to feel it in order to believe it. It wasn’t until it got broken down by going through having a child, and a marriage and divorce process that humbled it out to the point where I realized I was doing it to myself, and it didn’t need to be that way.
I thought doing it gently would slow down the process. I was wrong. The most efficient way is learning to love ourselves, and be gentle on ourselves and others through all of our life processes. It starves the ego walls and slides around false belief systems, creating a much more enjoyable and empowering process. But, some egos will take longer to figure that out (only took me about 15 years – maybe I can save you some time!)
So do your best to not judge or beat yourself up during the purging process, nor judge others for not understanding what you’re going through (or not tolerating being a emotional purge-vomit punching bag either.)
Purging trapped feelings is the most common. Usually once at home, it will be triggered by a real-world catalyst (so it’s tricky to still recognize that while everyone is ultimately responsible for their own actions, the trigger reaction is still yours to be owned.) A trigger usually comes when some belief, structure or trauma is still unhealed, and catalyses the trapped emotions we may have stuffed underneath in the past to survive.)
It’s basically feeling those feelings fully, one bubble at a time. If you go back to what you were working on – remember what were your original intentions? How is what’s showing up giving you an opportunity to trigger/train/release them? There may be no other way to get them out except in the physical world. This is more or less, what you asked for. Remember that, and the fact that you know you’re purging, helps the experience significantly.
Feelings these feelings can be tough, especially if we’ve spent a lifetime creating defense and belief systems to protect ourselves from feeling it. When it presents, these systems may automatically kick in, trying to uphold their duty to you. The beauty of it is, all you have to do it wait it out without stuffing it back in, or knee-jerking in some reactive action. Sometimes it’s that simple. This may need to be done with a friend or counselor holding space (depending on your risk of doing something crazy, so be mindful.) A bubble can pass in a very intense two minutes.
Sometimes, however, it’s more of a steady stream for several months (specifically when the particular emotion that is purging is volatile.) I’ve had anger purges (in Peru) that showed up as a slow burn irritation for 4-5 months, then lifted when it was complete.
There are times when these energies can be experienced as entities. This is fine as long as this perception doesn’t give them more power than they really have. I’ve found working with them as energies vs entities, no matter how they appear to you, creates a more fluid release and avoids an exaggerated sense of disempowerment for us.
I’ve also seen countless times where there seems to be some kind of Divine set-up to create the catalyst scenario to allow the purge out. One of the most common ones I’ve seen is what I call the “high school boy” purge (I’ve had a few of these – very embarrassing but so worth riding out!) It seems to be more common in women, but I’m sure all genders and orientations have a version.
This is where out of nowhere, some guy will trigger the inner schoolgirl where we get stupid in “love”. Sometimes the person is nowhere near a match, sometimes they might be perfect on paper. The set-up is how we feel inside – this swooning “head over heels” feeling where we revert 15 years and act however we did in high school to get them (for me, changing myself and my schedule for them, throwing money and emotional support at them to a fault, throwing out boundaries and values that I never thought were on the table.)
Inevitably, this big build happens (as a catalyst to release these trapped energies we accrued in high school) and then releases them when the second half hits (the “rejection” – the biggest fear for many high school girls.) This purges like a champ until it’s out (I had to go through two big ones until it was done – several months each.)
What’s left once these energies are out of the body is just you. Your spirit. My spirit. The empowered woman I imagined years ago as someone other than me. That’s who emerges.
So while these purges can suck (just being real) they’re worth every minute of it. I’ve watched core belief systems I never thought were purgeable release over and over. It really can be done. It can take awhile too, but those of us in this don’t really have another choice, as going back to the hamster wheel of society is not something with can die in integrity with.
During the purging process, don’t forget to continue the spiritual work you were doing before! Just because you had a peak ceremony experience does not negate all the subtle yet powerful approaches that were already working for you. Now is when you’ll really need them.
Stay in touch with your tribe, find a buddy you can process each other (equally) with, or seek counseling from those who get it. Staying in touch with the Medicine spiritually is also key. Meditate, sing or listen to Icaros – whatever you need to pull the Medicine energy up in your body. Ask for her help before bed to take the edge off, offer clarity while asleep or awake, or flow you to people who can help.
Try to remember – this is why you came into the Medicine in the first place. To get rid of this crap that isn’t you. Hold on to that for dear life – and as a general rule, if you think you might be purging, you probably are.
The best part of the purging process? The other side! When the particular purge is complete (at least that wave/round of it) you’ll know, because the clarity and space in the body that comes with it is like no other. Usually the hindsight kicks in and it all makes sense, and you remember why you were going through this in the first place.
This is really just the regular spiritual process accelerated by Medicine work, so it keeps going no matter how many ceremonies you have. The more wins you get, the easier it all becomes to spot while it’s happening (which is half the battle.) Stop and smell the roses, enjoying this win. Give yourself some props (remember the whole loving yourself thing) and be proud that you made it through, no matter how ungraceful and messy it may have been.
If you lashed out at others or did damage, go back and take ownership, and make a plan how to avoid doing that while purging in the future. If the clarity isn’t quite as obvious, ask for the Medicine to show you, and watch how the Flow flows. You may meet someone or read something that starts a trajectory as to what will make it make sense to you.
After-purge clarity is one of the coolest benefits to working on this path; it’s truly amazing to see yourself clearer than you ever had before. And it just keeps going:)
What is Spiritual Process Work?
Specialty Spiritual Development Skill Set
Spiritual Process Work is a specialty skill set used among spiritual circles. It hasn’t really been codified into an official thing as far as I know, but it’s basically the act of a skilled guide/spaceholder who knows how to intuitively read the energies to help guide a person to the place they are searching for.
It requires a lot of spiritual and ego work on the part of the Guide, as it’s very easy to project personal judgments, triggers and beliefs onto the person we’re guiding, thinking we know what’s best.
Requires Trust and Non-Judgement
The person should always feel totally comfortable and not judged at all. I’m a big fan of using my own process and ego work to let them know we’re in this together – no one is raised in our society and makes it out without some issues.)
This process, in my opinion, done on the Spiritual path, accelerated by Ayahuasca Medicine work, is the most powerful trifecta I’ve ever encountered. I learned to process originally from Iyanla Vanzant (she has a two year program for total spiritual development – and she’s a fantastic processor if you want to see one in action.)
Guides Underneath Defenses and Belief Systems
When done well, the Guide will be neutral, just reading the energetic reactions of the body to see if there’s a sensitive spot, alerting that there is something underneath being protected. Then carefully attempt to follow that track underneath, constantly checking the energetic defense mechanisms to see if the person is open, comfortable and willing to embark on the path.
It is an extremely vulnerable state and can actually cause damage if not done mindfully and skillfully.
When done well, epiphanies from within the person being guided happen. It is supposed to come from them, not from the Guide. It’s much more effective in creating change when a person sees it themselves. The guide may give some context, expansion or priming questions to test out the other’s intuition, but in the end, it just works more effectively for the person themselves to feel that clarity throughout their body and mind.
Sometimes these epiphanies can catalyze a continued purging process (or immediate purge bubble release when the space is felt) which accelerates the larger process or can shake it up if it gets stuck somewhere.
For me, spiritual development, the Medicine, and process work is the magical formula that takes everything to the next level.
Finding a Spiritual Process Guide
As always, go with your gut. Ask your spirit, the Universe, and the Medicine to guide you to your best match as to finding someone to process with. Work with them a couple of times and see if you vibe. This is an intuitive, natural process which may be called various things, so ask them what they do and see if it resonates. Here are a couple of tips when looking for support…
Things to Look For in a Spiritual Process Guide
- People actively working on themselves, who are willing to be wrong or admit their ego
- People who have been on the spiritual path for several years and are lifers
- If in the Medicine, maybe 50+ ceremonies under their belt (not a hard and fast rule, as there are MANY factors that weigh more heavily than number of ceremonies, but that’s too long to get into here)
- You vibe with them. You’ve got to feel comfortable and trust them
Things to Watch Out For
- Is there a feeling like they are right and you’re wrong? No gurus here
- Are the defensive? Easily triggered? Opinionated? Red flag
- Are they interpreting your ceremony visions for you? Telling you what your dreams mean? No bueno
- Are they giving you full-on advice (divorce your husband, quit your job?) Double no bueno
- Do you feel judged? Trying to look better by not telling the whole truth?
- What kind of vibes are you getting? What does your intuition say?
Again, these are guidelines. We’re all human, so go with your gut, even if someone has a judgey moment. Ask your spirit, the Universe and Medicine to guide you to your best match for the time being. Everything is fluid. Getting into this work, with or without the Medicine, can yield phenomenal results.
In the end, it really all comes down to our willingness. I’ve worked with clients who are new to spirituality (and not on the Ayahuasca path at all) who have doing amazing things with this work. I’ve worked with others hundreds of ceremonies into the Medicine who are too closed to see they aren’t willing. Growth mentality is key (and coming from a person forced by the Medicine upon my first ceremony to do immediate and intense work on my ego for the last ten years – I’m just saying – that shit is everything.)
Remember, this is the work! This is the path. This is why we’re here. Remember the big picture, and remember why you embarked on this journey to begin with.
Love to you my friends! Hope to see you along the path someday! We’ve got our work cut out for us in this lifetime – let’s do it together:)
~ Meghan Shannon Elder (@beyond_meghan)
Ayahuasca Preparation and Integration Specialist at Beyond the Ceremony
Accelerated Spiritual Development Coach at Beyond the Whirlwind
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