For my 52nd birthday this year, I wanted to experience Ayahuasca, “the vine of the soul.” I felt intrigued and encouraged by the stories of so many people who have found healing through this renowned plant medicine. Making the commitment to take this journey was a process that entailed a lot of reading and reflection. I remember the moment, several months ago, when I transitioned from having mere curiosity about Ayahuasca to a deep feeling of excitement. I knew that I was finally ready to travel to the Amazon basin in Peru to experience it for myself.
I researched several healing centers and decided to book a 10-day stay at Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual. Ricardo Amaringo is the leader of Nihue Rao. As a shaman and ayahuasquero with several decades of experience, Ricardo is very well regarded. The center is located on a beautiful property surrounded by lush forest that is an hour’s drive away from Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon. Upon my arrival, I was pleased to find that my accommodations consisted of a bungalow with three open sides – only screens separated me from the tropical forest. In the coming days, I would enjoy long naps, falling asleep at bedtime, and waking up in the morning surrounded by fresh air and the sounds of birds, insects and the occasional rainstorm.
The staff at Nihue Rao was very kind and attentive during my stay. Benoit is supervisor, and he conducted an in-depth, introductory interview with me regarding my purpose in traveling so far from home to experience Ayahuasca. Throughout my stay, Benoit monitored each visitor’s progress with the plant medicine, and he was always available to answer any questions that I might have. I also had an individual meeting with Ricardo prior to my first ceremony. This meeting was critical since it gave me the opportunity to communicate my specific intentions for healing to the shaman.
As I met the other visitors at Nihue Rao who had already been to ceremonies, I was struck by how excited they were about their experiences with Ayahuasca. Some of them spoke about elaborate visions that they had seen during ceremonies. And several described gaining newfound awareness that had a “transformative” effect upon their lives – an amazing claim given the short amount of time that they had spent at the center.
Soon, it was time for me to participate in the first of six ceremonies. I had thought long and hard about my intentions. My intentions were focused upon healing childhood trauma, finding forgiveness with family and relationship issues, overcoming addictive behavior, and gaining inspiration toward greater skill and confidence in my profession. During each ceremony, participants received an individual icaro, or medicine song, from Ricardo or one of a few other shamans that often induced a profound state of release, healing and awareness. I was truly amazed to realize new insights and make steady progress across all of my concerns as each ceremony unfolded.
Ayahuasca is truly a wondrous medicine. I felt so grateful for the expert guidance that I received at Nihue Rao from Ricardo and the other shamans and from Benoit and the other staff, which helped me to navigate this extraordinary experience. On mornings following ceremonies, participants supported each other in the process during sharing sessions with guidance from Ricardo and Benoit. And Nihue Rao provided a beautiful, serene environment for rest and reflection between ceremonies that was quite conducive to healing.
Nihue Rao is a beautiful place where I always felt safe and where my heart was truly opened. It provided me with the opportunity to not only reflect upon my deepest concerns, but to actually make substantial progress working through each of them. I returned home from Nihue Rao full of gratitude and very excited about the positive impact that staying there will surely have on my life going forward!