Inside the Ayahuasca Experience


Inside the Ayahuasca Experience

When Shamanism Meets Psychotherapy

By Gabor Maté

September/October 2018


As a physician trained in the orthodox Western model, I’ve long been aware of the astonishing achievements of modern medicine, as well as its limitations. What we, as medical doctors, can’t cut out, poison, or burn, we can only alleviate, at best. Mesmerized by cure, we know virtually nothing about healing. We can mend broken bones, transplant hearts and livers, but can do little for fractured souls and traumatized minds. Above all, we don’t seem to understand that people’s illnesses, mental or physical, are not isolated, accidental events, but the results of experiences and beliefs and lifelong patterns of relating to the world. In the face of all the evidence, medical practice separates the mind from the body and the individual from the environment. And we’re arrogant, not in the sense that we think we know everything, but in our conviction that realms of knowledge outside our awareness are not worth investigating.

I have worked in family practice, in palliative care with the terminally ill, and with addictions in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, notorious as North America’s most concentrated area of drug use. From both personal observation and the study of the new science of psychoneuroimmunology, I came to understand that often cancers, autoimmune diseases, and chronic illnesses are manifestations of lifelong emotional patterns of dissociation or repression. In turn, these patterns originate in coping mechanisms in response to early childhood emotional suffering.…

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Topic: Trauma

Tags: healing | psychedelics



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6 Comments

Friday, November 8, 2019 10:38:30 AM | posted by Steven
Regarding Philip Lambert's comment: "If this substance had such powers we would see South America transformed but all that is evident is corruption, poverty, murder and drug cartels with massive attempted migration from these evils." If I were from South American (where I have visited a number of times--not to take ayahuasca, by the way) I would be greatly offended by this comment. You have collapsed a very complex variety of cultures and histories into a two-dimensional caricature based on your readings of news headlines. The reasons for the sad realities behind those headlines are also very complex, and these headlines do not capture at all what South America is. Only a tiny percentage of South Americans are corrupt, murderous, or deal drugs. Only a small percentage have actually taken ayahuasca. And much of the poverty (not all) stems from a long colonial history that continues today in the form of foreign interference. My impression of South Americans--based on all my own personal experience--is warm, generous, honourable people. Following your thinking, if the Bible or Koran or Buddhist or Hindu texts were not a valid sources of truth, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus would not be murdering each other in vast numbers and generally acting in all sorts of reprehensible ways. If modern psychology were effective, there would be no depression, suicide, anxiety, divorce, mental illness.

Sunday, October 21, 2018 5:19:36 PM | posted by Philip Lambert
Reports and confirmations of sudden death to ayuahasca have been ignored in this long and rambling account. All psychedelics and hallucinogens have claims for epiphany experiences. Epiphany requires hard work and involves old-fashioned processes such as forgiveness, reparation, a journey of reconciliation and altruism. If this substance had such powers we would see South America transformed but all that is evident is corruption, poverty, murder and drug cartels with massive attempted migration from these evils. Ayuahasca is neither an answer nor a gateway to anything else but hucksterism not shamanism.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 6:07:44 PM | posted by Katherine
I am a 50 year old Canadian woman living in Ottawa, Ontario. I am seriously interested in attending a ceremony using ayahuasca, in a safe environment. How can I obtain information about upcoming ceremonies?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 4:11:01 PM | posted by Lisa Elliott
Beautiful essay, and so exciting that we're living in these times when this is possible. Thank you for adding momentum to the shift. I'm working with sacred medicines for my own transformation, after decades of work via sheer personal courage and psychotherapy, and am a counselor in training. I also study the physiology of stress and trauma via my Vagus Study Group on Facebook (4000 diverse members internationally), and intend to form myself into a therapist qualified to support people to prepare for and integrate their experiences of sacred medicines. I'll be sharing your excellent, and passionate essay with my communities, especially in the hopes of normalizing the discussion for those who are still afraid, and holding onto the stigma created by so many years of the war drugs.

Monday, September 10, 2018 1:25:02 PM | posted by Barbara
Hi Gabor, I came across a youtube video documentary with you explaining what and how trauma affects us. From my own experience, I wrote a book titled, "Walking In Your Power-lessons from the grandmothers"a writing through the eyes of an elder, it was published 2017. It is my experience of "healing" through the Indigenous Cree and Ojibway ceremonies that I received new awarenesses on the very things you talk about in respect to DNA and trauma. Indigenous communities carry a vast wealth of healing and recovery guided by skilled practitioners with traditional plants, knowledge passed down for centuries. Ancient songs that hundreds of years old, passed down and plants used without hallucinogenics. Our elders would say, "If it's not native of our environment it is unfamilar to our ancestors DNA. Just some thoughts and I've enjoyed reading this article and your thoughts on an indigneous practice.

Monday, September 10, 2018 10:24:57 AM | posted by Jessica McEachern
I was at the Nelson retreat many years ago....and was definitely impacted in the most amazing way. Unfortunately, the integration fizzled out after a short while but I look back at the week nowadays, and still can remeber its impact. I feel so blessed to have been able to be one of the lucky few who recieved the ceremony and then subsequent therapy from Gabor afterwards. Thank you Gabor❤