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I can’t prove it, but I noticed in my last ceremony that the people wearing white clothing had gentler, positive experiences, but who knows?

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I also bring a water bottle and a thermos bottle in that contains Amazon bark tea that I buy from

Note that I only sip the water as needed, and the tea is more for the latest part of the ceremony when the medicine is dissipating. I also bring a small flashlight with a fresh battery the end of which I cover with transparent red tape (so I don’t blind my fellow seekers in the dark).

The fact is, the medicine meets you half way: You must make an effort to ask questions and interpret the lessons.

This is work, and you’ll find out quickly why no one would ever drink ayahuasca as a recreational drug (one reason why it’s so ridiculous that it’s illegal in North America and many other places).

Of course this all became a moot point as people were overtaken with the medicine and fell into visions or writhed around their mattresses. You’ll be encouraged to “set an intention” for your ceremony.

But if you do smoke during ceremony, cover up the light as much as possible and smoke minimally. This can be perplexing to newbies, who may be there for a wide variety of reasons, including healing, curiosity or even thrill-seeking.

As the shamans often say, if you bring no intention to the ceremony, you may see a pretty light show and colors and not much else.

In truth, the first time I drank I felt it was worth the price of flying to Peru just for what I saw in the first 15 minutes.

It’s common for newbies to be nervous before an ayahuasca ceremony. (You know, the type that allows the Kung Fu masters to break stacks of concrete blocks with a single hand chop.) In the Upper Amazon, Mother Ayahuasca is described as a jealous lover. If you’re seeking a super-duper big-ass experience, try being abstinent for, like, six weeks or longer, if you can manage. Remember, you’re not having a “drug experience” — this is a (something not emphasized enough in descriptions, I feel) and certain things are done that seem odd to a person raised in a non-shamanic culture. In the Amazon, this would be thought of in terms of guarding against evil spirits, dark energies, and so on.

Pity the fool who finds herself backpacking in Peru and decides to drink ayahuasca on a whim after a week of hamburgers and mohitos. Spicy food may not offend the gods so much as your butt and mouth if you vomit or get diarrhea… In Asia they call this preserving one’s — one’s life force — and it’s all about cultivating energy.

You can eat delicious, simple food for a couple of weeks before your big experience, which isn’t much of a sacrifice. While I’m normally libidinous, I got lucky in a different way the month before and just didn’t feel like it for about three weeks before ceremony, and that included self-pleasuring.

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