Experiences, Health
comments 78

Why I Quit Ayahuasca Shamanism After 11 Years and 1,000 Ceremonies

I’m alive because of Ayahuasca. I am connected, soulful, expanded, and spilling over with self-love, mostly because of the blessing of attending around 1,000 sacred plant ceremonies. But if my intuition proves correct, I will never drink Ayahuasca or any other plant medicine again.

Why? Because it worked too well.

Let me explain.

The Standard Story: Ayahuasca Saved My Life

When I first found Ayahuasca – or rather, when she first found me – I was deeply depressed, though I pretended to be the happiest chirpy ass blonde LA girl you would ever meet. I had paralyzingly painful migraine headaches at least every 2 weeks. I drank alcohol almost every single day, as much as my body could handle. I did drugs most weekends to escape and to feel better, but increasingly, they were making me feel worse.

I was fake. I was miserable. I was dying inside and out.

In short, I was on a fast-track to total self-destruction, but I appeared as though I had the ultimate dream life. I had a famous boyfriend. I co-owned a video game studio. I was interviewed on national television and a major documentary. It would seem this small town Montana girl had it all figured out.

Life was exploding. And I was imploding.

But then came Ayahuasca. In my first cycle in 2006 in the Amazonian jungle, I woke up to the truth: I hated myself, and I hated my life.

That was the most honest realization I had ever experienced.

She (Ayahuasca) also gave me the courage and resolve to do something about all this darkness. I knew I had to change just about every aspect of my life. And that was OK. Because for the first time, I finally believed I deserved to feel better.

When I Grow Up, I’m Gonna be an Ayahuasca Shaman

The changes started the moment I returned to my LA home. Career, friends, boyfriend, house, drugs, alcohol – every part of my world started experiencing the necessary overhaul.

And in those 2.5 years of massive transformation, I drank in as many ceremonies as I could afford before I was offered the blessing of apprenticing with a couple of different maestros. In the process of ending the old destructive patterns, I thought I had discovered my life’s work: To be an Ayahuasquera. A shaman. A cuarendera. A healer.

I gave my all to this process. Every piece of me was committed. I did a total of 5 intensely restrictive and challenging plant dietas that spanned a sum total of almost 3 years. I became an organizer for a very large national Ayahuasca community, in which I did all the interviews, production, and aftermath assistance in addition to co-leading ceremonies. I sat in hundreds of Ayahuasca ceremonies with the maestros I worked with, guiding thousands of people through preparation, the medicine itself, and integration.

It’s an unspeakably challenging process, working with these plants. Learning to facilitate. The level to which one must be honest, transparent, strong, courageous, trusting, and disciplined is indescribable. My teacher warned me it would only get more difficult, and that was true; but that only made me more dedicated. More willing to give more of myself.

Things are Not What They Seem

Over the course of a year or two, about a decade after I went full throttle, it became abundantly clear to me that my life’s path was different than I imagined. I was not meant to lead ceremonies. My attachment to the process almost killed me, in truth, and maybe I’ll share those details some other time. The circumstances aren’t important right now, however, what I mean to share is this: Shamanism is not for everyone.

The fundamental understanding of anyone committing to a shamanic path is that there are good and bad energies (spirits) all around us, and a shaman aids in protection and clearing. Plants have spirits. Animals. Rocks. Humans, of course. The earth itself. The shaman is the bridgewalker, traveling to other realms to help with soul retrieval and spiritual cleansings that impact the tangible (body) and intangible (soul, mind, emotions, etc.)

I watched people with cancer heal themselves. Diabetes. Depression. Lyme disease. Kidney failure. Heart congestion. PTSD. Intense emotional traumas. You name it, I’ve seen it transformed in this process.

Nothing is Capable of Healing Us. We Have to Do It Ourselves.

Ayahuasca itself, contrary to what others say, is not a healer. She is a consciousness expander, which is far better. She shows us how to heal ourselves, if we’re ready and willing. She can’t force it, she can only show us the portal. If our soul knows it’s time, then magic can unfold.

She opens us up to a different perspective, a more expanded view of ourselves, our tribe, and our world. She gives us the opportunity to understand our true nature, our patterns, our fears, and then provides guidance (through the vessel of a trained and authentic shaman) to choose differently. To heal. To expand.

Ultimately, however, Ayahuasca is what I call “the medicine of duality.” She works by creating deep experiences of contrasts like fear and fearlessness, darkness and light, resistance and surrender.

But the more I worked with her, the more I became more singular in my awareness. By that I mean non-dual. And by that I mean – all contrasts collapsed into the one. I learned through EXPERIENCE (as opposed to thought) that hot and cold are just opposite sides of the same coin. Darkness and light are both made of God-stuff; they are all from source. And so in the highest truth, they are fundamentally the same experience, we just receive them from a filter of preference and feeling and compartmentalization.

In the true spirit of duality, she also helped me to own the truth of our human experience – that is, our divine (perceived but still very real) separateness. That means going deeper into soul, where pain is undeniable. I have experienced fear so wildly intense I sincerely thought I would combust from the realness. In that space, every moment felt like a lifetime. Each millisecond I had to hold on for dear life, thinking something far worse than death was about to consume me.

Despite knowing it’s all an illusion, my emotional experience has hit every corner of the spectrum. And to that part of me, this shit is very, very real. My soul doesn’t give a rat’s patootie if my mind says it’s all just perception. I feel. And to the part of me in separateness, that’s the real deal.

Until it wasn’t. Until I started experiencing it all as oneness. Until I accidentally uncovered a more unified truth.

Experiencing the Darkness as Part of the Light

I still feel the darkness – so intensely at times I think I might lose consciousness. But I never, ever believe it’s anything other than exactly what I need. I know it’s all love. And in that, the duality has fallen away.

This actually made me powerless as an Ayahuasquera.

Why? Because although I see and experience all those spirits, including the demonic ones, I started to deeply understand they are only projections that stem from our current perspective and vibration. They are both real (if we believe in them), and then when we see the bigger picture of reality, they become projections.

Both real and unreal. The ultimate contrast.

The trick of this is, since I don’t believe in their existence as entities, and in our fundamental separateness, the tools fell away. They became ideas rather than tangible tactics. Holograms rather than bona fide methods.

It became like watching a movie. Yes, I would see the dark energies around a given being, especially while they were being doctored and helped. But I personally could not separate that those entities were simply (or not so simply) there not to torture and maim and harm, but to teach and reflect and assist. Darkness is the bad guy that teaches us our most profound lessons. And since we can’t kill the darkness, we might as well turn our curiosity to it and dare to understand.

There’s Nothing Wrong Here. Except that We Think There’s Something Wrong.

I stopped wanting to interfere with the beauty of our journeys. I stopped feeling like something was wrong. I stopped believing in the boogeyman. I stopped knowing how to combat the darkness because I realized that darkness is there to teach us our lessons. Yes, it fucking sucks to have illness and disease and paralyzing fears. Pain and loss and separation and drama and OMG there’s so much suffering in this world!

But none of this is an accident. These are gifts that we must own, integrate, understand, and love before we can transcend them. The only way out is through.

As Ayahuasca would tell me, you can hide kid, but you can’t run. Shadow is part of self. Self is part of all. There is nothing to fix. Only to listen to. Only to understand.

To sum it up, I learned to accept everything as perfect.

And since I saw someone’s (and my own) dis-ease as an aspect of soul, as an opportunity to heal and expand and grow, I no longer felt being a healer was my calling. Outside of duality, there is nothing to heal.

I was out of a job. I had been divinely duped.

Getting Dumped by Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca, in her infinite wisdom, pushed me out of our relationship. She basically dumped me. She dumped me HARD. But as I recovered, I discovered what is always, always true – that was a supreme, ridiculously awesome gift.

It was not done to me, this dismantling of identity – it was done for me.

And so, despite once dedicating my entire life to Ayahuasca and plant medicine, despite giving up everything to do this work, despite tattooing the plants and animal totems all over my body – I am personally done with shamanism.

Or am I ?

Life is always full of contrasts.

In truth, I am done with my old identification with shamanism. I had to do the “let go of something so a bigger vision can materialize” trick.

I once thought that there could be nothing bigger or more rewarding then helping people ease their suffering. As usual, I was wrong.

Understanding Suffering, Not Eradicating It

Now, I am taking all that profound learning, all those nights of terror and breakthrough and bliss and duality, and embarking on two journeys (duality again):

1) Deepening my own relationship to soul. Doing my best to own that I am only a vessel of divinity, that I don’t know shit, that everything I go through (especially my suffering, the part I resist the most) is a gorgeous blessing, and that the intention of learning and expanding is All There Is (because it all leads to love….)

2) Guiding others through the uncharted territory of soul. Helping whomever is called to work with me to know themselves – and thus the entire experience of consciousness – in a more whole and complete way. Whether they are working with Ayahuasca and the master plants or not, I am overjoyed to help people understand their true essence. Their eternal nature. That everything is both real, and not real. That we are both mortal, and immortal.

I am not doing this by leading ceremonies. I have chosen instead to be the before and after guide, as that is where I can stay in my integrity.

But let me make one thing very clear: This is MY personal journey with Ayahuasca. She taught me the secrets of the universe, and then disengaged from our union.

This is not to say that others can’t have the exact same realization and be a stronger shaman for accessing the non-dual state. That just wasn’t my destiny. I wished with all my being that I could have it all. I was so attached and in love with being with her. But she and my soul had other plans, and I am honoring that completely.

Knowing all is perfect does not by default make you a defunct shaman. It just made ME one 🙂

Authentic Shamans and Journeyers are All Spiritual Warriors

I honor with all that I am every brave soul who both facilitates and participates in these sacred, time-honored experiences. It is NOT the easy path. It can be, and often is, the most rewarding experience of one’s existence.

I am humbled and overjoyed to be the cheerleader. To guide the before and after. To help in the unraveling. To the connection to truth. To a deeper understanding of self. And most importantly, to a more complete experience of love – love of self, others, and the whole cosmic multiverse. And that means loving our shadow, which in its most complete form means loving Death.

So thank you, Ayahuasca. With all that I am, and all these tears I cry for you now, I honor you. I adore you. You will be Mamacita to my soul for all of eternity. I will miss our crazy ceremony times together. More than I can express. It seems impossible that one could grow out of and away from you, but such is my truth.

But to watch others experience the unique messages you have for THEM – it’s like being with you myself, repeatedly, in a continuous stream of truth and love.

Go Forth and Find Your Own Truth

If you are called by her, answer. If you are called again, keep answering. It will be the journey of lifetimes. But if it ever feels complete, do not take offense. All we can do is be true to our own soulful awareness. That’s love. And love really is all there is.

About the Author:

Tina “Kat” Courtney, The Afterlife Coach, has worked with Ayahuasca for 11 years, with a decade as a shamanic apprentice. She works as an Ayahuasca Coach, guiding others through the integration and preparation process with all sacred plants and master plant dietas. Additionally, Kat works with people confronting issues around death and shadow. Ever the Gemini, Kat is also the co-founder of RedRoar, a cause-oriented and conscious marketing agency. She’s a transformational junkie with a major love of polarities, and she adores helping others love their darkness too.

Website |  Facebook  |  Twitter


  1. Cassandra says

    I’m going for the ceremony today. My first experience and I feel the calling. Reading your post has given me a deeper and much needed understanding.
    Thank you.

  2. Tom says

    Hi Kat, interesting story. Thanks for sharing and good luck with moving forward. The medicine does work in mysterious ways. After my first week in 2011 I truly thought I was deeply transformed and wouldn’t go back. She called me however and I’ve never really stopped. I guess in the end it’s about feeling fulfillment from our participation, be that serving medicine, helping others integrate or not working with the plants at all…

    • Completely agree Tom. And hey, I’m the first person to admit that if Aya calls me back, I’m totally hers 🙂

  3. mixed says

    Great read Kat. Thank you very much for publishing this article as it is yet another confirmation regarding an acceptance of the bad and that we all have our own journeys and yet we are still infants learning lessons. I may have missed something, but it “Sounds” like you’ve reached a zen, yin yang, enlightenment, type of realization that has freed you to a great point so many strive.

    • Hey there 🙂 Thank you for the beautiful comment. Yes, I realize the heart of these realizations lies in what others call enlightenment et al, but I really have no desire for those monikers. I’m well aware I’m still very, very human, and very very blessed to have had these expansive experiences. That’s enough for me. Truly appreciate your comment!

  4. Kotori says

    The mother sent her daughter out on her own because it was time to leave the nest, perhaps? Your integrative insight appears to be “success”, if that’s the right word, at least for that stage. You have a warrior spirit. Thank you for your sharing your testimonial. I think it is important. K

    • Well said Kotori – I feel that deeply. Although I kicked and screamed about leaving the nest initially, I know understand the notion that mom does know best. Thank you for the beautiful insight. Much love and support to you <3

  5. I am very intrigued by Ayahuasca and have been since i first heard about it around 21 yrs old, 27 now, i find myself reading about it online from time to time, still very much intrigued wishing an hoping that someday i might be lucky enough to be called by her, and have the means to actually get to her, i feel i need to be cleansed of all negativity in my life an have no idea how to get rid of it on my own. i believe in the power she holds and hope to have an experince as half as good as yours. thank you for sharing, i enjoyed reading it from start to finish.

    • Hi Jamie! Thank you so much for reading, and for feeling the calling. I trust Aya has amazing insights and healing in store for you too, and if there’s anything I can do to help your journey, please reach out. I adore supporting others in this complex but rewarding path 🙂 http://afterlife.coach

      Much love!

  6. Tina says

    Dear Tina,

    Your words are so synchronous – I am a psychotherapist, just finishing my PhD work on resonance and other closely linked concepts, but, what I cannot write about because of a lack of space ….is the non-dual. To relate to other from a non-dual perspective is an invitation to enter a healing space, a whole other dimension of relationship …where that which was lost/returns …it is an altered consciousness oppositional to trauma relationships! When we most profoundly realise (as you have) that everything that manifests we create, it is a massive shift in insight and perspective. Whilst in non-dual states as a psychotherapist I have been able to see into non-ordinary dimensions and witness their trauma (dissociated) but to write about this has been tough, its new for psychotherapy. Therefore, to personally heal, I have had to cross over to shamanism and other means. Yet, as a therapist, I feel I am almost done with it. I find joy in the creative …new old joys are flooding back…restorative pursuits etc. I wanted to share with you what an old psychotherapy trainer said many years ago….when you are healed you will no longer have the desire to be a therapist, I think this may resonate with you and part of what you express here. Thank you for your writing. I am a Tina too, so a nice little coincidence ?!?! 🙂

    • Tina – I feel like you’re my non-dual shamanistic psychotherapy loving soul-sister! Your comment made my heart so happy. It’s a crazy place to realize the path you devoted your life to no longer fits your paradigm of spiritual experience. But the great thing about the non-dual space is we realize everything is sacred to the All, so we can’t get it wrong. Whether you continue on and own you PhD or change direction (or create a hybrid of your skillset, knowledge, and perspective), it’s all good! I’m honored to be on the path with you. Stay in touch if you feel called to connect more – kat@afterlife.coach 🙂

  7. Fate says

    My first experience was Divine, I was shown behind the veil I was taken by the arms and told about the whys and hows. I was told it is “all love” and after seeing the mechanics of the universe I didn’t have any fear and just wanted to thank the Universe (if it is only one truth, then you know what I speak of when I speak of the Universe and it’s love for all).

    I had a 3 night journey with the next two nights just finishing up the conversations I started on the first night.

    Then I went back (5 in under a month).
    It seemed very much like I was shown the truth and didn’t need to go back, that the lessons I was getting were all silly and petty compared to the “knowledge of the divine in whole”. I was going back to give support to those that I thought needed the healing but never experienced anything great with psychedelics.

    I was seeking God the first night as one of my children came down with a life threatening problem. I went with a desire and fought her until she told me what I came for.

    Since then I let everything go and really don’t have many “asks” but I did ask for one thing. To get back to “chopping wood and carrying water”. It is very difficult to go back to your life (even if it is a good one to begin with) when you have a divine experience with her.

    When I asked for strength to return to my “day job and life” I had 2 bad experiences, both helped me but it was more like a Hoasca feel, where it was just a strong DMT trip rather than anything to do with the spirit. The first of the bad was me talking to my higher self (rather than her) and my subconscious laid into me and I went home and cleaned out my house of anything legally troubling. The second time I had a blood pressure spike (though I think it was a 1/2 cup of coffee 6 hours before). It made me realize that I didn’t need it again just now. I was on a “pass out dose the first and last night, but the last night I couldn’t go over because my higher self was concerned with the speed my heart was racing and when I went all zen and let go.. it didn’t help at all.

    I realizes I was putting myself in medical danger and really didn’t need the healing right then.

    I liked your story. It felt a little too comfortable, I can understand how it could become that way with even just 20 ceremonies.

    I learned the hard way that people are supposed to get lessons to grow. I can’t fix things for others. But I can support them if they get weak fighting their own battles and learning is taking a toll.

    • Thank you for your beautiful share – I feel you so deeply. It’s really divine that you came to realize so quickly the benefits and crutches of the path, and trusted your own space of empowerment as the ultimate compass. It’s really all we can ask of ourselves on the journey; to trust the we know best where to go next. I send you so much love and support 🙂

  8. I just read your article which I enjoyed so much for its authenticity, it resonnated a lot. I am glad you have find your own true way through this journey of yours which seems intense. Thank you for sharing. I know I will soon meet Her, the calling after many years is there, your voice makes it very clear now <3
    Love & magic upon you

    • Thank you so much Fiona! Love your beautiful energy. I’m sure when you meet Her it will be true love <3 So much support and gratitude to you!

  9. Donna says

    Tina, what a great read, I enjoyed every single word. Everything is absolutely perfect. You found the truth. It is so simple and we are responsible for making it difficult. I will be experiencing her for the first time this coming Saturday as a solitary drinker so to speak. I plan on taking 1/2 the recommended dosage. I do no drugs, take no prescribed prescriptions, and am pure in body. I look forward to this experience, Hugs……

    • Donna – Aw, thank you so much. Makes my heart happy to feel your words. Good luck with the first journey with Mother, and I am happy that you’re taking it slow. I send you love and support on your journey my friend – thank you for reaching out! <3

  10. Noni Ethielle says

    Thank you. I was feeling with my heart while reading. Still have my 18″ long spiral of my Banisteriopsis. It’s been almost 21 years since we visited deeply together…..
    I had to laugh when you said,”I am personally done with Shamanism, or Am I?”
    Ethnobotony is, all of a sudden, back in my life.
    Earth’s saying “C’mon, it’s time, Let’s Go!!”
    The surprise of my life!! The funny thing is, I just finished clearing the table again, and I Am Ready to Go!
    She’ll be back, maybe in different clothing, but in some way, she’ll be back.♾

    • Noni, I feel you so deeply! And I laughed when I read your comment because I can feel HER laughing too. The laugh says “Hahaha, they always come back.” 🙂

  11. A deeply moving account. Thank you.

    Yes, the only journey is from the known to the unknown, otherwise we can’t know freedom from the mind.

    Your words about darkness remind me of the suchness (Tatata in Buddhist Pali), which is also course also present there. I see I have more to encounter in this regard, and Aya will facilitate this.

    On #16 with Aya as my current spiritual guide, to have done over 1000 is both mind-blowing and to be expected. Your path away from her assures me that she is indeed a let-go plant par excellence.

    I have noted your name and we will find each other…….

    • Mo,

      With all my heart, thank you for the wonderful share and the tangible support. I have done the same with your name. One tribe, my friend, I will see you soon <3

  12. DigitalWolf says

    I am feeling theoretically enlighted by your great words…Thanks for this beautiful experience sharing. Appears like you have given trust to my Intuitions…. My fuzzy imaginations and intuitions about the universe, light and dark…. have got life. This is probably the best article I ever came across and something I needed in this time of my life. Love and peace to you.

    • Dearest Wolf, that’s about the kindest comment imaginable. Thank you for receiving both lightness and dark 🙂 So honored to have your support. Much love to you in your journey my friend.

  13. Dave says

    Hi Kat,
    I have been wanting to do a weekend ceremony in Fla. and it is driving my mind crazy thinking about it. I have been a regular type person my whole life and ran into a friend thru my business that was very “out there” and he gave me his “library”. I am a person that loves reading books and read all of his books..very esoteric. It has fundamentally changed my life and I am not even close to the person I was 4 years ago. I have been thinking and searching for many things in life that are true or as close as possible. In my younger years I experimented with drugs, inadvertantly with lsd and others so i’m not a babe in the woods.
    I guess what i’m asking is will Mother ayahuasca take me under her arm and help or tell me im a dumnass? I think she will laugh at me and say… ” hear we go again”..

    • Hi Dave! Hah, well, I can’t possibly predict what Mother Aya will have to say to you, as her bag of tricks is infinite, but it really comes down to this: Do you feel called to meet with her, to hear what wisdom she wants to share? I can tell you it feels like you are called from what I’m dialing in to via your energies and message, but only you can know for sure. If you want to talk about the process, I’m here – I do free consults for people curious about the medicine. Just reach out to kat@afterlife.coach and we can chat 🙂

  14. norscape says

    The relationship between non-duality and plant medicine is an intriguing one. Having been involved in both worlds I’m not sure how the dialogue should unfold. In the meditative traditions of Buddhism for example there has been the view that meditation is the answer to everything. However, Ken Wilber and others have suggested that the West has much to offer in psychotherapeutic terms when it comes to shadow work, which is not directly addressed in the oriental traditions. We all know about certain ‘enlightened masters’ who had serious shadow issues. Perhaps that’s where Aya can be of most value, to prepare the pyschological ground for potential non-dual recogntion down the road.

    • I deeply resonate with what you shared – it feels to me like the core of what Aya offers in supporting the path to the nondual experience lies directly in the understanding and integration of shadow. How can we return to the one if we have not fully embodied the illusion of duality? And the shadow holds the key 🙂

      Thank you so much for the comment!

  15. I am in the process of doing guided meditations but feel more and more strongly I need more help to uncover, heal, flower than those sessions will afford. This article rings like a bell. Thank you.

    • Beautiful Catherine, glad it resonated! Knowing the space of meditation is the single most advantageous practice to have before sitting with the medicine, so you already have a head start 🙂 If I can be of service as you find your way to the perfect circle, please let me know. MUCH love.

  16. I have sent you an inquiry email just now, as I feel it is officially time for me to ask the questions in order to find my path. Im excited and respectful of the process. Its been a long time coming 🙂

  17. Kevin says

    Hello and good day Tina,

    The subject of shamanism facinates me. As west coastener who has s big V on his forehead regarding Aya/DMT I’m even more interested in the “effects” it may have on me. From cleansing to speaking with spirits, I can hear it calling me. I was adopted by a man from Ecuador, but never had an opportunity to try anything of the sort. I sent an e-mail, it may be TMI but I’m very intrigued by what you’ve said. Thank You for the inspiration and for what you may have done for others.

    • Hi Kevin 🙂

      I am engaging with you via email, but wanted to respond to this too – thank you for connecting and diving in! Happy to help you answer the calling with confidence. Much love and support!


  18. Both DMT and Ayahuasca seem like a great eye opening experience that could help me reach enlightenment. At 17 ive experimented with many drugs but now spend time learning about the dreamworld and attempting astral projection. Never heard a calling for anything and my self love has been growing for myself but I am curious, will dmt or aya bring me closer to astral projection and enlightenment

    • Darling, everything brings you closer to enlightenment – that’s precisely what we humans are up to right now, and of course, it’s an on-going and infinite experience, not a destination. Consider the sacred plants the equivalent to donning a lightning rod and running around an open field in a thunderstorm – they may fast track the expansion of consciousness, but they don’t do anything watching paint dry can’t do too. It’s a matter of calling. Your inner guru will always guide you to exactly what your soul needs for the next level up. If you’re called, go there. If not, wherever you go is perfect 🙂

  19. “Consider the sacred plants the equivalent to donning a lightning rod and running around an open field in a thunderstorm – they may fast track the expansion of consciousness, but they don’t do anything watching paint dry can’t do too”

    Sacred medicine doesn’t have to be equivalent to such an intense experience. It can enhance and facilitate ones awareness of body, heart, mind and spirit that compliments and is complimented by other modalities.

    • Hi there – thank you for the comment! Allow me to clarify – my analogy in no way was meant to imply that working with sacred plants implies a need for intensity. They’re the same as life – sometimes wildly intense, sometimes deliciously subtle. So I concur that neither are required or guaranteed – they give us what we need. And I’m very aware they enhance all aspects of consciousness and work well with gazillions of other modalities. 🙂

  20. Tina – you’re post resonated with me deeply. I’ve yet to experience an Ayahuasca ceremony but I’m very much looking forward to it when opportunity permits. Your analogy of light and dark being different and equally important aspects of ourselves is spot on in my experience – I spent many years during my spiritual exploration trying to fight/suppress/conquer my “dark” side only to eventually realize that acknowledgement and acceptance is the key to progress. I think we’re conditioned to separate good vs evil (a very subjective concept to begin with) from childhood instead of seeing behavior as service to others vs service to self that when we encounter an aspect of ourselves that we dislike we try to fix it without understanding the why – treating the symptoms and not the cause.

    Looking forward to your future articles!

    • Hi Adam – ah, thank you so so much for the beautiful and supportive response. Acceptance is that uber powerful obvious but yet still hidden secret that leads us to the expansion we so desperately desire – so happy to see a lot of us waking up to the energy that welcomes the darkness, rather than creates more conflict. It’s an honor to walk this path with you my friend – thanks again for reading and connecting!

  21. A friend posted this article… and I’m grateful to read it. Thank you. Your words about the duality of real vs. unreal. Wow! Yes!

    I had a very similar experience with Aya, seeing my friends do the apprentice work to become Shamans, and wanting/thinking that could be my path too. But realizing my path lies in a different way.

    I discovered that the ancient Book of Life — and it was Aya ceremonies that helped me see this — was hidden in plain sight as the deck of 52 playing cards. And we can read our Soul’s Blueprint in these cards. It’s how I came to a peace and knowing that satisfies my Soul. I now love sharing this ancient wisdom with others. I started a non-profit foundation called Life Elevated to unveil this wisdom that was hidden in plain sight, hidden behind the veil of our consciousness.

    If you’d ever like to chat further, please reach out. I’d love to share more with you.

    • Hi Alexander, thank you for the comment! Sounds like you have connected deeply to a core element of your soul’s path and that is epic to hear. I read Tarot and can do so with a normal deck too – have a deep connection to cards, so your wisdom definitely piques my interest. Especially because I resonate so much with the “hidden in plain sight” magic. Connect with me anytime at kat@afterlife.coach – I’m traveling this week to Costa Rica but will be back to normal next week and would love to stay connected. Thank you so much, and big hugs to you 🙂

  22. Dawn Denise says

    I’m curious about Ayahuasca. I survived a very abusive childhood (molestation by father, etc.) and am fighting my own personal battle with alcoholism. Can this REALLY, TRULY perhaps help me?

    • Yes Dawn, it really truly can help you heal and release. I have been blessed to have my own healing from intense traumas, and witness hundreds and hundreds of other folks do the same. You absolutely can feel better! Reach out to me at Kat@Afterlife.coach if you’re ever curious about knowing more. <3

  23. Marylou Sanchez says

    Hello Tina, What a fantastic story! And it will keep going…….Thank you for sharing. So many things in your experience are very familiar to me. My name is Marylou and I was a person with deep depression for many years, hiding it and functioning in the outside world like all was ok, but living in constant inner pain and trying to get better through seminars, workshops, books, CDs, etc. etc. I could fell the deepness of the desire of leaving this human experience and the deep un-love (huge hate) towards myself for not being perfect and for making many mistakes in my life. Carrying that for many years it was in 2013 that something had to give and it manifested in getting very sick, with an excruciating pain day and night in the left side of my head, after all tests the doctors told me they could do nothing, things got so bad that the constant pain escalated and I prepared to go and die with my family in Mexico. (I live in Canada). Just before leaving I found Ayahuasca, or maybe she found me, I know she heard my screams. I was in January 2014 in Mexico and two days after arriving there I was at my first ceremony, where I experienced an amazing beautiful, difficult, healing experience. The pain went away that day and as many people say, “Ayahuasca saved my life”, or changed it. A month later in my second ceremony where I finally was able to feel love for myself and realize that there was nothing to forgive, only to Love. I took the medicine 3 times before returning back to Canada and I had the desire to take it once a month. I couldn’t find ceremonies in Toronto so I went to New York. In my 6th ceremony The Madre (Ayahuasca) asked me to help and become the link between the shamans and the people looking to take the medicine in Canada. I asked the shaman right there if he will come to Canada and I will organize the group. So much has happened since then, I have been organising ceremonies for almost 4 years for about 9 different shamans, it has been an amazing learning, growing and evolving adventure. Many disappointments in regards to the Human beings acting as “ shamans” until last year when I told Madre Ayahuasca I was done organizing ceremonies, then she help me to understand that I had just gone through an intensive training about “organizing”. Now I am in another state where I know what kind of Shaman/facilitator I want to bring to the group and what it really means to be a “shaman”/ “facilitator” (now I have two amazing real shamans ). My path, for now, is my dedication to master/teacher plants and to continue, without fear, organizing and facilitating the ceremonies in a place where those medicines are not legal and making them accessible to people ready to take this type of awakening and self-healing. I know that ayahuasca won’t heal, that all is self healing and in reality is nothing to heal, only to transform and transmute. One of the biggest understanding I received is the one in relation to our duality and the roll of our ”ego-shadow-demons-density-darkness” . That the dense energy we experience as our demons (image our mind gives to that vibration) is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to destroy, nothing to fight, but is about to accept it and transform it , balance it and know that it is creation, as it allows us to experience what we are not.
    In one ceremony I was asked if I could be strong, next day during integration, to say to the group “ I Love darkness”, I said yes and I did it. I was ready and I know that those seeds were ready to be put out there, because until we are able to love ourselves unconditionally that we love our light and our darkness, we will be spinning our wheels fighting with ourselves and wanting to destroy and denying “that” other energy that makes us human, That energy that we are so afraid of, and that energy that we are always running away from, until one day, after facing it we discover that is nothing to be afraid, only to transform and balance with our innates energies of conscious Love and Light and exercising the freedom we have to do that or not and it is ok what ever we choose. Nothing is right or wrong, all is just an experience and we are just remembering who we really are and that we can create our own life (something we do not believe and it takes time to prove it to ourselves).

    As well something very valuable I believe The Madre (Ayahuasca) wants to remember and “KNOW” is who we really are, and to have very clear that who we really are, is something that can never ever be touched, damaged, destroyed, and never dies.
    Being Human is not easy, but is fantastic to experience the beauty of a human life in this amazing beautiful planet. I know we come to this 3D dimension many many times and I know that all is creation and all is well.
    A big HUG with much appreciation
    Marylou Sanchez

    • Marylou, you are a true spiritual sister. Thank you for the share of your amazing journey. We’ve been on some rides with this amazing plant teacher eh? Amen to facing the darkness and owning who we are. The irony of this article is that I am now leading ceremonies again, after having declared I was done. Lol. I knew she may not let me off that easy, and yet I couldn’t be happier. I know you understand.

      It’s an honor to meet you love. Hugs right back 🙂

    • Beautifully written.
      I can fully see your amazing journey with its clearly different stages.

  24. Marylou Sanchez says

    I hope to meet you in person one of these days. I totally understand you returning to the Madre, seeing the changes and transformations in people is very very beautiful. We keep walking this path that is not easy but very much fulfilling 🙂 . Blessings!

  25. Aaron says

    Dear Tina

    You’re article is so beautiful and so relevant – so much so that it may have been written by me (which of course, it was).

    I’ve been working with ayahuasca at a global organisation for two years now, and I’ve reached the same stage that you’ve talked about. The dropping away of all beliefs into the terrifying beautiful infinite singularity of nothingness and unity. It’s my time to walk away from ayahuasca now too, I even saw the breakup last time I drank.

    I wish you all the best and infinite love in whatever you’re doing now.

    A <3

    • Hi Aaron,

      That’s a beautiful place to be. It’s a joy to wake up to perfection – even though sometimes the changes that result can be uncomfortable and challenging. Still worth it to see the big picture.

      The irony of my story is that I now work in Aya circles once more – this time at Rythmia in Costa Rica. My perspective hasn’t changed, but I am honored to answer my soul’s calling. I hope you get to do the same in your next chapter too 🙂


    • She is very good at helping with such things, Greg. I now work in ceremonies at Rythmia in Costa Rica. Would be honored to help you re-connect with your soul should you feel called 🙂 Yes, I am back in ceremony – it was impossible to stay away! Lol

  26. Alain Massé says

    Thank you Tina, for the sharing… I am uplifted by your journey.
    The great Grand-Mother also helped me uncover this non-dual experience… it is like we never left home, isn’t it? One teacher that help me wording and understanding what was happening to me is Rupert Spira. You will find free lectures on YouTube. I know there are a lot of teachers of Non-Dual awareness, but most of the time, I feel we stay in the mental domain, transforming the mind, not so much the experiencing. I find your journey very inspiring. Hope to be in a circle, one day, with you. Much love dear… much love…

    • Hi Alain,
      Thank you so much my friend, I have not yet listened to Rupert and am always open to new teachers and wisdom-filled souls. Truly appreciate the share. And it would be an honor to sit in ceremony with you someday love – we can anchor into unity and love every minute of it 🙂 Grateful for your support and share <3

  27. Comanche says

    I a looking forward to my first journey circle, I hope very soon. I just met someone who has been doing it for a long time and I found we are strong kindred spirits. I am now older and retired and been all over the place spiritually, psychologically, and physically. Drugs have come in an out of my life over the years, including most psychedelics – peyote, mushrooms, LSD (lots of this), mescaline, etc. All were enlightening in their own way. They opened me up from being an uptight, depressed, science type to being a closet spiritual, dabbling in healing of various forms. And there were literally decades without any “enhancements” in my life. So I have tried many paths myself, in my own way.

    Although he was probably never a true shaman, the works of Carlos Castenada and the Don Juan series made a profound effect on me in my college years. Coming from a small town in uptight west Texas and going to an enlightened (at the time) Boulder CO I was initiated to acid along with other drugs. I have had many, many experiences with acid, well over a hundred, and only felt uncomfortable one time when I was by myself in an empty Army barracks. The others were simply amazing and incredibly positive for me. I have suffered from serious depression my entire life and the various trips opened me up to an alternate reality and my empathy for others, and for myself, grew exponentially. I was intensely happy, feeling the energy around us all, that is unmeasurable with instruments, yet flows continuously. These feelings have been a part of my life ever since.

    Hearing about ayahusca has thus been very intriguing to me. I would enjoy acid again but it has some harsh edges to it and takes a lot out of you and is typically not a guided experience. So getting initiated to spiritual, guided journeys with circles is something that is pulling me. But I haven’t been around those who are currently on sacred journeys and haven’t found a way to get involved directly.

    I really appreciate your sharing of your experiences. I can see how you have gone down the path that you have, and your decision to take another path after so much intensity and understanding the difficulty in trying to heal others. I have always felt that we all, individually, have to heal ourselves from within, yet we can be helped with empathy and support and guidance with others who understand the nuances of the journey.

    Reading your story, and those of others, gives me more confidence and anticipation of going down some of these paths myself, hopefully starting soon. Thank you.

    • Hola Comanche,

      What a great share! I was just like you before I tried Aya in that I was very familiar with LSD (and really loved those journeys! Even the scary ones.) And I also adore Castenada’s books – he was pivotal in opening me up to shamanism too. Every stone in the path is sacred. So happy you felt inspired by my story; it’s an honor to share this journey with you <3

  28. Dear Tina,
    Thank you very much for sharing your story! It helped me better understand my story:)
    Although I did not go through ayahuasca, but other methods… and it teach me the Darkness – to accept her, honor and love as a teacher. I also passed through the lessons of duality and opposites, and I came now to guiding. I help people with change as a guide… how do you write: this is where you can stay in your own integrity!
    With this attitude I wrote a book about the passage through the Darkness… to a Whole. The book was a bit like your ayahuasca:)
    I finished the book 4 years ago, but I needed 4 years till now to matured it physically, what was mature in my mind when we wrote it.
    A few months ago, I started with guiding, last week I started spreading the book …
    and thanks to your article, I have better understood the whole process. Thank you very much! with love Lenka

    Navrhněte úpravu


  29. hi Tina.
    This your story is most interesting ayahuasca story i have ever red.
    Philosophical and profound talking.
    And i know, this integration of dual things is the way to Life. I have a lack of seeing it so obviously and of experience of it in deep level as i have never tried ayahuasca nor other deep tripping, but I know it bcz i started to understand it after many analytic workings and researching and finally mindfulness. Nethertheless i have so much fears and misreactions due to my past so that I always knew: I need the Recapitulation (in C.Castaneda’s terms), but since I get noticed about this amazing traditional (ayahuasca) brew – I am in doubt … May be ayahuasca would be better to start with? As it seems to me, mindfulness is too slow way to be healed. May you give a hint? Thank you.

    • Hi love, thanks for reaching out. Ayahuasca is the fast track for many of us on a conscious journey, but only if you’re called. If you feel like sacred plant ceremonies are where you belong, then you can’t go wrong. Don’t force it, but by all means, dive in if you feel the pull. It is a glorious and turbo-charged place to awaken. 🙂

  30. Thomas says

    Leaving for CR in a week for my first plant medicine immersion. Don’t think I could have found a more honest and revealing thread to assist in the preparation. Quite amused at how helpful this information is and why it found it’s way to me. The calling has been a life long progression…and now I better understand and appreciate all the suffering that I endured to get here. Suffering seems to be essential in leading to full gratefulness. Darkness to dawn.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • When in CR are you headed Thomas? The medicine recently called me back and now I work at Rythmia in Costa Rica. So maybe I will see you there 🙂 Thank you for commenting my friend, journey well <3

  31. Thomas says

    Gathering on the west coast of the Osa Peninsula. Thanks for your kind being and words.
    Namaste now and always..

  32. Huseyn says

    I think she dumped you, because you fell into the trap of a “demon”.
    Look, you either view everything dualistically, or either monistic.
    You say, you see everything as one, but still seek something “better” by saying it can be “good” to learn from the darkness, it can be for the “best”. You seek progress. You seek climbing. You want to be good. You wish the best for the people. But how can you, if you think there’s no difference. You’re not clean of dualism. And even if you would be, it shouldn’t change any of your actions, except the emotional levels you can get to from the same things(they get smaller). Maybe I’m wrong, lost the spirit in the middle of writing, got distracted, but should be enough to get the general idea.

    • Oh darling, nothing could be further from my truth.
      I view things BOTH dualistically AND monistic.
      That’s the very nature of reality.
      Everything comes from source. Connectedness. Oneness.
      But our EXPERIENCE of duality is undeniable. If you don’t believe me, have cyanide for dinner. Your body will tell you the truth of the duality you experience, and your soul will tell you the truth of the oneness.
      I will never be clean of dualism for as long as I am in a body. But I am liberated by Truth.
      Also, I am pouring Aya again every week. She never dumped me. That was all part of the illusion. But my experience of it was real, and I am forever grateful for it All.
      Thank you for your comment!

  33. Andrew says


    Your (life)story is amazing and inspiring to say the least. I’m in awe of you.

    Honestly, I’m most intrigued about your state(s) of mind before your first ceremony.

    I struggle with BP symptoms and have been labeled with the “dis-ease,” take meds, still struggle, etc., etc.
    As a matter of fact, my father took his own life back when it was still called Manic Depressive. He self medicated before exiting, although there is some mystery surrounding his death.

    After exhausting all searches linking ayahuasca and BP, it appears to be a toss-up of sorts – i.e. 50/50 outcome for
    those afflicted with disorders seeking solace in ceremonies.

    That is, (from what I’ve read) some show signs of improvement while others claim it exacerbates symptomology.
    Who is to say?
    And I understand the futility of anyone stating: “Sure, Ay cures all mental illnesses – no problem.”
    I believe you’ve already covered the truth – that there are no healers, other than ourselves and Ay is simply a vehicle or an opportunity.

    At any rate, I trust you’re still operating at Rythmia in Costa Rica and will be there Summer 18′(?)
    Do you still attend to pre- and post- coaching sessions or has your return to ceremony negated that?

    Either way, I’d like to say “I feel the calling,” but 6 months of a lethargic, anxiety-ridden depression has left me so out of touch
    with my true feelings, that it’s hard to say. I certainly have an interest in feeling better/recovering but have no interest in worsening – just like anyone.

    I had fairly extended experiences with LSD/psilocybin/coke/ganja/alcohol in high school/university, but pure MDMA in Bangkok (2003) is what began a monster year long mania resulting in excessive depressions as the years drag by.

    I quit drinking and all illicit drugs three years ago and really thought it’d make a big difference but this depression says something different.

    Best to you,

    • Hello Andrew,

      So nice to connect with you brother. Yes, it’s a wild ride to embark on our own healing journey, especially when the mystery of darkness claims a partnership. I’d say the assessment of 50/50 with BP (and related diagnoses) with the medicine is accurate, but it all comes down to trust. The people I’ve seen come through this kind of depression does so because they trust it’s time, and that the medicine is the key to assist. That was my attitude, and I’m obviously so grateful it worked. Yes, I’m still at Rythmia, and save a week or two, will be there this summer too. We see people with all kinds of diagnoses have great results here, so you’d be most welcome. I still do pre and post coaching too – visit afterlife.coach for details there. I’m on your team if you feel called to work with me – reach out anytime 🙂

  34. James obrien says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I understand everything you wrote about duality being all the same coin and that everything is how you choose to perceive it. My intuition is directing me to try mother ayahuasca now. I bought a passport and going to travel to Peru alone to do this. I am trying to decide between dreamglade or the Gringo Shaman Ron Wheelock. Have you tried ayahuasca from them before or could you recommend a trustworthy place? Thank you so much again.


    • Hi James,
      Thank you for reading and commenting! I don’t recommend sitting with Ron at all – he’s famous for putting other plants (namely Toe, a very dark mind-based plant) in his medicine, and he’s not a high vibrational being at all. I have sat with him before and hosted him as well, and I won’t do that again. I haven’t been to Dreamglade – the place I love in Peru is SpiritQuest, as I adore Don Howard and Don Rober with my whole heart. That’s where I began my journey and I still consider it sacred.

      I don’t work in Costa Rica anymore either – I quit Rythmia recently and am now doing this elsewhere. If you’d like to stay connected, I’d be happy to keep you posted on opportunities – just email plantshaman@gmail.com and we will stay in touch. Thank you brother!

  35. James obrien says

    I also had a dream that directed me to go to Costa Rica last night out of nowhere..if that matters…

  36. James obrien says

    Is there a way for me to try ayahuasca alone with you as a guide?

  37. Zina says

    Hi Tina,
    thank you for sharing your story here. I have had 4 ceremonies with ayahuasca with the wrong people, meaning the setting was chaotic and kind of “evil”. It took me a couple of months to recovery from the cognitive impairment that happened to me. I had difficult time getting grounded and present. the facilitators and the ceremony guides were not attentive to my complain and told me this is who i am and i need to reflect upon my experience to find the lesson. there was Zero accountability from their side.
    Now and a year later, i feel ayahuasca is calling me again, but i am so scared of falling into the “wrong” group of people again. Ayahuasca became a huge industry and money making business. you hardly find shamans and facilitators who are authentic and doing it for the right purposes. I do not wish to become the victim of these inauthentic groups.
    iIfind talking about ayahuasca as if she were “God” is repulsive! a plant is not a God, the plant is the creation of God, the creation of a creator. When i hear people talking about the spirits of mother ayahuasca and all that reflect lack of faith and kind of old paganism. is it the good old sorcery times or what? I go on the internet and read horrific stories about people using ayahuasca and loosing their sanity or getting attacked by dark entities and sorcery. it sound as if the risks are much greater than the benefits.
    could you please help me reflect on this for a moment and give me you feedback. i do not know what this calling is about, I am not really keen on following the calling as it might be another trap. please advise.

    • Hi Zina,
      Honey, I totally understand. The more popular this process becomes, the more people with zero integrity and training step up and do more harm than good. Our world has egos on parade wherever we look, so Aya is no different.
      I’d love to help you unravel your calling and find you a safe place, should you wish. Best thing to do is email me at plantshaman@gmail.com and we can take it from there. Much love sister, thank you for reading and commenting. <3 Kat

  38. dia says

    Hello I was looking to do this at home. I’d really like to try this in a controlled environment with someone i trust. I’d like some direction.

    • Hi Dia,

      I believe I just replied to your email too, but to reiterate here – please don’t do this alone. The internet is not a safe source for sacred medicine (it literally takes years for a shaman to perfect a brew), and sitting alone is risky at best. Please read this for more info:


      I want you to have the most profound and beautiful experience with this medicine, but I want you to be safe as you do so. Sitting alone is like doing your own surgery – it’s just not a good idea.

      Thank you for reading and reaching out!

      Let me know if I can help with anything else <3


Leave a Reply to Donna Cancel reply