Drveni paviljon na imanju EKOA – jedno od mjesta održavanja ceremonije

Wooden pavilion at the Pousada EKOA – one of the ceremony locations


Together with a group of friends, I attended an ayahuasca ceremony in Brazil in spring 2008. The ceremony was organized by Ralph Miller and his team from the Heart Of The Initiate, led by Peter Richardson. There are many possibilities for ayahuasca experience in Brazil. Since it is a legal substance in most of the South American countries, there are also many shamans and organizers of spiritual workshops based on consuming this substance. One of them is Ralph, who, together with a group of associates, organizes ayahuasca workshops several times a year in Bahia, the northern part of Brazil, near the oldest Brazilian city of Salvador. Ceremonies are held on the estate of Pousada Ekoa, at the Barra Grande peninsula situated between the small town of Ilhéus and a surfer’s village, Itacaré. Pousada Ekoa is probably one of the most idyllic places I have ever seen or visited – it is situated next to the beach and consists of a beautiful tropical garden and exotic bungalows. To practice spiritual work in such a place is a luxury – the estate is miles away from any larger town, the air and the sea are clean, and the energy is the highest possible.


 View towards the sea (the wooden pavilion is now at the right side).

The workshop lasts seven days, and during that time three ayahuasca ceremonies are held. It is also possible to attend two workshops since they are organized successively, and then go through six ceremonies, especially if you are not a beginner. From the moment of arrival at the estate, special diet regime begins, but it is not extreme – the food is various and rich, based on fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Between the main meals, coconut and açai are served. Açai is a delicious fruit from the Amazon abundant in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, consumed in the form of chilled mash with the addition of cereals or other fruit. Green coco juice and açai are two nectars that had a part in the whole experience because of their help in healing, purifying and filling the body with energy and therefore complementing ayahuasca as a plant teacher. In addition to the biochemical effect they had, every consummation seemed to intensify or reactivate some of many ayahuasca’s effects. Namely, the day after the ceremony I have had a sort of a flashback while consuming either açai or coconut, which made me slide again into some of the higher states of consciousness. In that way, other forms of plant life had an interesting and effective way of involvement in the processes run by this ceremony. 
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Coconut juiceAcai as a meal

Three ayahuasca rituals are scheduled every second day while in days of rest lectures are given, together with sharing of experiences and additional shorter rituals dedicated to the elements of earth, fire, water, and air. Every ceremony lasts approximately eight hours – there are two evening ceremonies which begin after 20.00 hours and one daily ceremony (the second one) which begins around 15.00 hours. Fasting is obligatory, so before each ceremony meals are not being served – dinner before evening ceremony and lunch before the daily ceremony. Ayahuasca ceremonies are led by Warinei Wanare, a Columbian shaman, and his assistant Sara Nusta. Participants are situated underneath a roofed pavilion near the beach, lying or sitting on mattresses with some blankets. Sometimes it is necessary to cover oneself because of the wind breezing from the Atlantic Ocean, as well as because of the unstoppable mosquitoes. After everyone is settled, the shaman begins the consecration of the potion while singing and rustling with a bunch of leaves. Besides the consecration, safeguarding of the space is also performed. It is done because spiritual rituals and experiences tend to attract energy beings who try to hinder them. Therefore it is necessary to protect the space on which the ritual is performed so that any kind of disruptive energy or influence stays away. 

While the shaman sings ritual melodies, Sara performs fumigation of the space and each of the participants. Communicating with the brew, the shaman whispers his prayers upon two big bowls and then gives final instructions – once you drink, there is no turning back. He says we can also come for more, but only after the first dose shows its effects, which usually takes an hour. Then the ceremony begins – each participant goes to Warinei individually, kneels or squats by his side, and Warinei pours the potion into a small wooden pot. Sometimes, he pours it fully, sometimes not; sometimes, he gives a mild look at the person and then adds or decants a little. For some participants, this can already be a bit problematic because of the intensive and unpleasant taste of the brew – it is simultaneously salty, sour, and bitter and is not easy to swallow. Warinei immediately offered a glass of water to rinse the mouth, and some participants took refreshing bonbons. However, we are advised not to drink or eat anything after taking ayahuasca, even water, unless we are highly thirsty or immediately after vomiting, to wash our mouths. 

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Ralph MillerShaman Warinei Wanare
Sara Nusta and Warinei


After everyone had their first portion, Warinei and Sara also drank ayahuasca, and the participants went to their places to lie down or meditate. Conversation is not recommended, at least in the first part of the ceremony, and we are all obliged to be quiet and incredibly considerate towards each other. Warinei then starts quietly crooning, drumming, and rustling, imitating an echo or a “delay effect,” which is very pleasant to someone experiencing the first effects of the potion. Subtle drumming is interchanged with harmonica and shorter periods of silence, after which Warinei tirelessly continues singing during most of the ceremony – usually for around six hours. After half an hour, the first effects start to emerge. For some, these are purification processes – diarrhea and nausea, while others have already begun to have spiritual experiences.

Initially, it is often about staggering to the toilet and vomiting, and as much as it may look like a small price for purification and spiritual experience, it sometimes really is unpleasant. Vomiting is usually a consequence of a strong sickness, and that is what follows the consumption of ayahuasca. It is not always easy to go through such states, especially if it is not someone’s “purification style” or when it is simultaneously followed by diarrhea, so one does not know how to coordinate those two “fragrant” activities. But nausea comes and goes, it is not permanent, and the good part is that after vomiting the effects of ayahuasca increase considerably. Vomiting can be done in and outside the toilet – around the plants situated on the estate. Since the content of our stomach is just ayahuasca, there are no objectionable consequences for the environment. Even more, the plants allegedly like to have ayahuasca be brought back to nature – most of the participants underwent through a somewhat grotesque experience of throwing up and at the same time communicating with plants who wanted to absorb our secretions while sending messages of love and acceptance.

  Preparations for the evening ceremony – Shaman and his assistant Sara 
(left by the table), and some of the participants.

I spoke about many possible effects of ayahuasca in the first part of the article when I talked about how spiritual experiences and visions may take any form. What’s interesting about it is that people have yet to experience what they expected or anticipated. Experiences were as they were, and the things we expected happened only after we completely gave up on them. So, the effect of surprise regularly follows ayahuasca journeys, but the same goes for other methods whose goal is to have a direct spiritual experience. As much as they may be similar to preceding ones, authentic spiritual experiences are always fresh and original. Though it is possible to program or dedicate the ceremony to solving some problem or gaining an answer to an important question, it is better to let go and open up, discarding all expectations so that our mind does not interfere with the process. Namely, spiritual experiences do not belong to the domain of the human mind and cannot be forced into happening. And finally – now that I have gone into presenting the ayahuasca ceremony – here are a few words on my personal experiences so that readers may have some first-hand information.

The first ceremony

Soon after drinking the potion, I felt pleasant physical sensations but nothing else. I have expected nothing less than visions like the ones painted by Pablo Amaringo, but there was no sign of them. Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind – I should ask for some specific experience, intending to stimulate some action. With this in mind, after an hour and a half, I went for another cup, and shortly after, on the edges of my peripheral view, emerged a feminine being asking me – what is it that you want? The first thing I could think about was – show me the state of perfect happiness! Thereupon follows slight nausea, which makes me want to get up and go to the toilet to vomit and empty my bowels simultaneously. Afterward, I took a short walk through the estate and instantly became aware of the omnipresent glare – nature was glistening in its sheer beauty, exposed in its essence. And its essence was – pure simplicity. I was shown that perfect happiness was just that – to be what you are. Everything else we add to the bare nakedness of existence and the simplicity of our essence will make us unhappy. Although this experience was already known to me, its purity and beauty differed from anything I had experienced until then.

Later on, I went through a kind of psychological cleansing – my recently deceased father appeared, and the same female entity suggested that there was only one more thing I needed to clear up with him. Communication with my father is quick and direct – done in a few minutes. He leaves me satisfied and peaceful, and I feel relieved from the burden I was unaware of until that moment. However, I deal with unconscious relationship dynamics almost daily. Therefore, you never know what awaits you behind the corner, even when you think you know almost everything. After that, I felt completely relaxed and enjoyed my mere existence, being in a “golden state” of pure simplicity, recognizing that everything that exists already is perfect, and there is nowhere to go and nothing particular to do to make me happy. States of alertness alternate with soft slumbers and reveries, and I slowly return to my room. This is also one of the advantages of ayahuasca over other psychoactive substances – it allows relaxation and sleep. In contrast, other substances produce states of tension or cramps, which prevent sleeping, usually for many hours after taking.

Although I went to bed at dawn, the morning after, I felt great – awake, conscious, calm, and relaxed; I drank coconut juice and ate some heavier food because I had fasted the whole previous day, except for some fruits for breakfast. Now, I eat some eggs and cheese, and what surprises me the most is that with every bite, I slide back into the blissful state I had experienced the night before. The whole day passes peacefully; I am so relaxed that I usually feel only at the end of a more extended vacation.

The second ceremony

The following ceremony was held in the afternoon, two days after the first. After drinking the brew, I started feeling the effects much sooner than the first time, but these are primarily feelings of physical comfort. I remain seated in the lotus position, and the shaman’s singing and drumming penetrate my body, making it twist and swing smoothly. Since nothing besides physical comfort happened, I went for another cup, and soon, my peripheral perception revealed the presence of beings that I perceived as extraterrestrials. I was under the impression that their ship had been somewhere high in the Earth’s orbit for some time and existed in an aggregate state invisible to the human eye or radars. I entered into communication immediately and asked them about something of particular interest to me – alien technology and 2012. The answers I received were rather general – I was told that humans are conscious beings, just like themselves, and that every conscious being has the right to influence the essential elements of its existence – energy, matter, time, and space. The answer concerning 2012 was that the events that will lead to the end of an era and the beginning of a new one still need to be completely defined. Everything is still possible, and we can influence the course of events.

My next question concerns the type of consciousness one must have to master cosmic technology. The answer comes in the form of direct experience – something resembling a wormhole or a black vortex appears in front of me and sucks me into it, leading me into a state of profound emptiness, or better, total nothingness. This experience was also familiar to me from before, but now it had the intensity I had never felt before. “Dark nothingness” absorbs me totally, and I sink into the “dark sea of the Spirit” and stay speechless for hours without any comment. Residing in such a state made me feel “stoned” at the beginning, but at the same time, I felt like I was being charged with energy that was yet to be activated. Therefore, the prerequisite for dealing with space technology is having the level of consciousness that I already described as Emptiness. Real knowing goes beyond the mind, and holding the mind empty allows the “dark sea of the Spirit” to enter. This type of consciousness enables a creative detachment from the existence as such. Particularly, through my spiritual practice, nonexistence was shown to be one of the biggest taboos for human beings. People would rather stay in a distorted form of existence than detach from it and realize the final truth – that the world is an illusion. Not only is the outer world an illusion – man himself does not exist as a separate individual.

On the other hand, the experience of nothingness is not merely an experience of nothing. The instructions from extraterrestrials concerning nothingness were that it is a medium that enables a transformation of energy into matter, and conversely. So, paradoxically – everything is in nothing, or nothing, there is everything. The strongest energy sources are not in brilliant, multicolored energies or something that seems to be moving, oscillating, or shining; true power comes from nothingness, from non-vibrational energies of something Castaneda’s Don Juan used to call the Nagual or the power of the vast dark sea of Infinity. The ceremony ended with extraterrestrial instructions on how I, as an individual, can contribute to creating and promoting cosmic technology. It concerns intimate messages and recommendations that I should follow to complete my mission, with an accent on the systems of personal and spiritual development and energy healing as my specific contribution to such technology. 

The third ceremony

The last ceremony was of the greatest intensity. Almost immediately after drinking the brew, the effects began. The Earth beneath my feet disappeared, and I was in a universe without volume. It surprised me at first, and I tried to hold on to something, but there was nothing to hold on to. Soon, I got used to this new state. This time, I didn’t slip into nothingness; instead, there were many multicolored elements of Creation manifesting in front of me. I was in a vibrant, live space full of geometrical patterns forming and dissolving before me. So, there they finally were – the visions. Suddenly, an Indian woman stood before me, sitting on the form of a pedestal and asking me – what is it that you want? I instantly thought of asking her about the meaning of life, and the woman started spinning her hands and creating an energy whirlpool that entered my heart area and led me straight into an intense ecstasy. The space around me rumbled while the shaman’s drumming sounded like an African drummer’s concert. I experienced life’s quintessence as an ecstatic fulfillment, and at that moment, I didn’t care about the meaning of anything anymore. The ecstasy was so intense that it became its purpose. Yes, the quintessence of life is to enjoy it; what else?

Given that my ear channel was inflamed because of extreme temperatures and constant draught exposure, I asked for this inflammation to be healed. Soon after followed an unusual sensation – I felt like I was being bombarded by sound blasts, which seemed as though a bomb was falling from the sky and exploding in my ear. To my surprise and delight, this sensation kept repeating itself unexpectedly every few minutes. Although I would naively question the nature of this whistling every time, it would be the same as the previous – each explosion would make my ear less swollen and painful. Suddenly, the mysterious Indian woman appeared again and gave me some instructions, saying that I needed to talk to my organs more often andthat they are conscious beings who need adequate attention. If they are facing some extreme conditions, it is good to explain to them why it is so, that they shouldn’t worry or “be angry” if such conditions are unavoidable; they need not react with inflammation to receive some attention. This relation to my body is an exciting addition to other forms of healing in practice.

The third ceremony ends with no less than an experience of ascension. Although this may seem like a typical “new age” pomposity, whether I want it or not, I have been consecrated by a strange group of beings that called themselves the “white brotherhood” (I know, this also sounds like something you have heard many times before). There were nine of them, and they pulled me to their level of existence, which looked like a space filled with purity, consciousness, and love but without any particular form. I have received an invitation to become a part of such a brotherhood, but also some instructions on the changes I need to implement to stay connected to their sphere of existence. Later on, while sharing my experience with other participants, I found out that some of them have had a similar experience, which can present a validation that this was not just my hallucination. Being a part of this level of existence includes many activities I had just been performing now and some forms of consciousness, discipline, and responsibilities that are not my favorite. But who am I to reject such a thing? Fulfillment brought by living a life based even more on purity and love cannot be measured with occasional “casualties” that need to be sacrificed for that.


The experience of the ayahuasca ceremony is available to all persons who meet adequate health conditions. Such conditions are not rigorous – only people who have psychosis or longtime addictions to some psycho-pharmaceutics or heavy drugs cannot join. Although they, too, could profit from such ceremonies, most organizers want to protect themselves from persons who could jeopardize the group’s stability with their conditions. Therefore, those persons usually organize individual visits to the shamans, if possible. So, everything that a relatively healthy and stable person needs is a willingness and some financial resources. Organized ayahuasca ceremonies rarely cost fewer than a thousand Euros, and when added to the plane ticket, the whole sum is not small. But where there is a will, there is a way. The old rule says that means come when the goal is clearly defined. That is, one should first have a plan and then ask for the means for its realization, and not the opposite, like most people expect – “When I have enough money, then I would do xy; but because I don’t have any, I’ll do nothing.”

Indeed, this is an adventure that begins at the moment the decision is made. Soon after paying the advance, my friends and I started to “boil.” As the course was approaching, the temperature was progressively getting higher, and many temptations and personal crises seemed as though wanting to drag us away from our goal. But, given that we were all experienced practitioners of spiritual techniques (such as the Enlightenment Intensive), we were already acquainted with the barriers and their meaning. Also, we felt invited by spiritual entities who seemed to be the protectors of this ceremony. In moments when we were thinking about giving up because of some personal engagements or problems, they appeared in our dreams (usually in the form of a female entity, similar to “Mother-Goddess”), inviting us to come.

Nevertheless, our previous spiritual experience was the most valuable and helpful thing for everything that had happened before and during the ceremony. We have experienced ayahuasca as a shortcut toward enlightenment, but it is not and cannot be a replacement for spiritual practice accomplished through meditation and disciplined training. So, I was happy that the experiences I lived through on ayahuasca were not exclusively limited to such ceremonies; they can also be experienced at home through the effort and methodology of personal development we already have here in Croatia. However, the journey was worth it – we have experienced the whole undertaking as an initiation into a new level of consciousness and improved capabilities for managing our lives.     

Although the effects of ayahuasca are most intense during the ceremonies, they can also be felt weeks after drinking. However arduous the period from deciding to participate in the ceremony may be, we felt nothing less than ecstatic upon leaving Brazil. And the effects were not just momentary – our group kept exchanging new insights and experiences months after returning home. Therefore, we recommend this type of adventure to anyone willing and able; the gains will always be there because the rule says – you will gain as much as you have invested. Concerning my descriptions of ayahuasca experiences, as words are not an adequate means of presentation for spiritual experience, I wonder if this text was helpful to readers or confused them even more. So, at the end of this sharing, in the tradition of Lakota Indians whose ceremonies we practiced during our stay there, I will say – AHO!

© Tomislav Budak, June 2008.