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(I rarely lie down flat except for stretching out my back — the visions just become to overwhelming.) As I can’t easily sit with my legs crossed for a long time, I find it very useful to bring along a yoga chair (there are versions used by hikers) that’s basically a legless item made from two pieces of nylon-encased foam, held together with straps.

I bring a sleeping bag rather than blankets, and usually keep this unzipped like a duvet.

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.

(Now you see why not a lot of young people in South America are apprentice shamans…) Anyway, I practiced abstinence and had powerful visions my first time. I imagine one of the most neglected areas of preparation among people traveling from busy industrial society to ayahuasca retreat centres is the simple act of paying attention, by which I mean noticing () your mood, what’s around you, nature, and so on. You don’t have to think of it in those terms, if you don’t care to.

I’ll never know what would have happened otherwise, but I imagine my experience could have been less. I don’t understand people who finish a work deadline, jump on a plane and drink ayahuasca the next day. Okay, so the big day has arrived and you’re in some ayahuasca retreat having eaten super-healthy vegan food for weeks and weeks, avoided alcohol and had no sex for what seems like forever. I quite like it, but then I like the Lord of the Rings movies, so finding out there really is a spirit world is quite cool in my books.

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A good intention is kind of like a mantra that you can repeat and come back to if you start losing your way. Let’s assume here, though, that you have to bring your own stuff. Note that this is not the thick kind you inflate with a bicycle pump, but rather the thin kind hikers use, that can be rolled up tight.

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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.

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