As one can probably guess, the medicine works in different ways in different people. Visual imagery, while it can be part of some people’s experience, is often less common than one might think from reading or hearing experiential accounts of others. Oftentimes ayahuasca works on a much more energetic level than we may consciously be able to perceive. The experience itself can take many forms, such as physical/energetic work – bodily sensations, physical purging through yawning, laughing, crying, sweating, vomiting, or shaking, to name a few – or deep thought, emotions coming to the surface, mental imagery, reliving past experiences, or a feeling of oneness and connectedness. It can be different not just for every person but for every individual experience. We are careful to mitigate expectations of visions in the guests that we welcome to Soltara, as while this can happen for some people, it is often not necessarily the bulk of the work being done, which happens in much deeper layers and oftentimes in the body. In some cases, the visions can simply be a distraction. In others, they can be a helpful way for the mind to understand the narrative of the healing being done. We encourage guests to surrender to the healing work, let go of expectations, and trust that they will get what they need, even if it isn’t in the way they expected.
The Shipibo cosmology comes from a deeply-rooted and animistic relationship to plants, animals, and the natural world. They believe in a harmonious energy field that pervades all things. This concept of an all-encompassing reality of oneness can challenge the average Western mind, but it is what informs and shapes the efficacy of their healing practices. There are typical patterns that the Shipibo are known for in their art and textiles, which represent the oneness of creation, and connect our world to the spirit world and the powers of Nature. In the same way, the icaros, or healing songs, sung during ayahuasca ceremonies are the audial representation of these patterns. Thus, during ceremony, the healer is accessing the geometric patterns of energy from the plants, which transform through the vessel of the Maestro/a to a chant or icaro. The icaro is therefore a conduit for the patterns of creation, which permeate the body of the patient, bringing energetic harmony in a way that penetrates the deeper layers of the patient’s system, releasing negative energetic blockages and their emotional counterparts. The healer knows when the healing is complete, as the design is clearly recognizable in the patient’s body. Oftentimes it takes multiple ceremonies to complete this, and when the completed healing designs are embedded in the patient’s body, this is called an arcana. This internal patterning is deemed to be permanent and to protect a person’s spirit going forward.
As a result of this type of work, in some cases, the healing appears intangible to the typical Westerner during the ceremony itself. We let people know that even if they do not receive any direct insight during their ceremony experience, part of the integration of this work is to be open to the idea that insights may unfold in the days, weeks and months following their retreat, after the energetic work has laid the appropriate foundation upon which the body, mind, and spirit can build.