I’ve found myself highly skeptical of plant medicine. And not because I had any firsthand experience of it, but because I dwelled in my own limited preconceptions. And so, it really surprised me when one fateful weekend, 3 people that I dearly love and admire talked to me about Ayahuasca. As a firm believer in the Universe’s messages and following the rule of “triple synchronicity”, I allowed myself to open up the possibility of learning more about plant medicine and letting go of my biases.
And lo-and-behold, a few weeks later, I discovered that my amazing peer and friend, Emily Byrd had returned from her Ayahuasca Retreat. She was so kind to open up a vulnerable conversation with me and share her intimate experience in a way that’s inspiring, educational, and myth-busting.
So, I take it upon myself to bring this enlightening discussion to you in the form of readable and watchable resources.
Emily shares so many nuggets and nuances about what to expect when you are consuming Ayahuasca! And I’ve created an introduction post to a much deeper conversation that unfolds over our 90 minutes together.
#1 – What is Ayahuasca?
The word Ayahuasca originates from the Quechua language, where ‘aya’ refers to spirit or soul, and ‘wasca’ means vine. Put together, it means “Vine of the Spirit”.
In a very simplified sense, Ayahuasca is a psychoactive tea, indigenous to South America (regions within the Amazonia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Columbia). This tea is made from a special vine with leaves that are boiled together for days. The concentrated blend becomes Ayahuasca Tea which practitioners get to consume during a traditional ceremony that can be traced all the way back to 900 BC!
These ceremonies are conducted by shamans called Ayahuascairos that have traveled on their own Ayahuasca Journey many times, being in a sacred relationship with this plant medicine. They’ve had several guides and deep reflections from this experience, making them masterful in their ability to hold space for laymen like us and help us connect to the spiritual realms.
What Emily emphasizes throughout our conversation is that Ayahuasca is so much more than a tea, or a fancy ceremony. I deeply admire her for the mindful way she brings spiritual awareness and nuance into our discussion, and hope you will too. Here’s part 1 of our discussion where we go deeper into the origins, preparations & myths about Aya:
#2 – How does Ayahuasca compare to other ancient Indian healing modalities?
As it becomes more popular, it’s important to understand why people are more and more inclined to try out plant medicine for their healing. As a Yoga teacher herself, Emily beautifully draws a parallel between Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion) and the dedication, faith, and ritualism that shamans follow in facilitating Ayahuasca journeys.
She shares that when you say yes to Ayahuasca, you are signing up for emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. It can help us connect to a greater realm of love and possibility, truth and hope, that can help us feel more alchemized in our journey of self-development.
The other aspect of Ayahuasca is its ability to help us achieve deeper states of communion with the Divine. Just like Asana Yoga helps prepare the body for “oneness”, plant medicine clears our energy allowing us to become a clear spiritual channel. Through my discussion with her, it became clear that Ayahuasca, amongst other plant medicines, is attractive to people because of the multidimensional ways we can heal through ingestion!
#3 – What does it take to have a successful Ayahuasca experience?
Leading up to the ceremony, Dietas is practiced: months and months of preparation to make the body ready to ingest Ayahuasca. Lots of lifestyle simplifications are encouraged, such as sexual abstinence, substance abstinence, and letting go of caffeine, sugar, and processed foods. Even being mindful of the music one listens to; Emily shares how she stopped listening to her son’s favorite hip-hop music leading up to the ceremony!
If you think about it, It’s no less than becoming a hermit.
Ayahuasca being a divine experience, one is encouraged to set intentions and build clarity around how they’d like divine intervention in their life. It can be as specific as asking for guidance in certain parts of our lives or being in a state of surrender and allowing the process to take us where it needs to – similar to where Emily found herself focusing her intentions.
We finally dove into her actual ceremony details, which I LOVED learning about and have shared below. Dive into her amazing story-telling with me:
#4 – How does an Ayahuasca experience change you?
“It’s like you receive Ayahuasca even before you receive it”.
Emily shares that the Dietas she practiced leading up to the Ayahuasca ceremony has become a large part of her life. Even months later, she has found it easier to stay true to what matters, and to no longer sweat the small stuff. The simplicity helps her stay connected to herself and the Divine, which has a ripple effect on how she shows up in her life and business. In some cases, it means no longer hanging out with the people she used to.
She’s also found a heightened sense of awareness of the toxicity that takes us away from ourselves. Whether it’s the WiFi waves, processed foods, media… all of it. But having the deeper alignment, she’s able to continue simplifying her lifestyle and bring more congruence.
That said rituals within which plant medicines are practiced make it such an intimate, sacred, and spiritual experience for those that are ready for it. But it doesn’t come without its side effects – you may experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows. There are physical, psychological, and spiritual alterations that can affect us in ways we don’t hope for. So while some people may feel deeply transformed, others may walk away having mixed feelings and a lot of purging. Irene Lyon’s perspective on the dark side of Ayahuasca is very illuminating and compliments what Emily and I discussed in our conversation.
I admire how much intention Emily put into her dietas, the preparation for her journey into Ayahuasca! There was a lot to learn and a lot of reverence with which she speaks of the whole process. I hope you will be in just as much awe as I am after tuning into Emily’s Ayahuasca experiences.
And as is true with all forms of healing – move at your pace. Listen to your body and instincts when you feel called to either participate or walk away from an experience.
Emily Byrd is a certified Mastery Method & Transformational Business Coach for service-based entrepreneurs. Having built multiple businesses, Emily uses her expertise, inner wisdom, and experience to help her clients align their soul’s work and calling to a passion-filled, profitable business model and plan while doing the deeply transformational work necessary to be a successful entrepreneur.
She’s presently located in Durham, North Carolina with her son Craig, and two pets, King Louie & Winx. Emily serves clients from all over the world and also facilitates in-person retreats and workshops.