COURSES

Ayahuasca Curandero Initiation CoursesAuthentic Study of the Shipibo Healing Tradition

ayahuasca foundation ayahuasca initiation course student in curandero training in peruDo you feel that you are destined to be a healer?
The Ayahuasca Foundation recognizes that more and more people are responding to this call, and we have designed an ayahuasca training program to facilitate their journeys on the healing path. Located in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, these Initiation Courses seek to preserve and spread the wisdom of the indigenous cultures of South America. Plant Spirit Healing is the oldest form of medicine on earth and we as a civilization are blessed that it has been developed and maintained for millenia, but its lineage is now in danger of being lost forever due to the spread of modern culture. This ancient wisdom must not perish. There are individuals like you who are ready to learn the philosophy and healing techniques of the curanderos, and now you have the opportunity to continue the heritage of Plant Medicine. By taking part in a course, you are taking part in the healing of humankind, as well as the healing of the Earth.

Ayahuasca Initiation courses are an opportunity to experience an authentic training in the Shipibo tradition of curanderismo, centered around the use of ayahuasca in ayahuasca ceremonies.  This course is a condensed version of an ancestral initiation, teaching the basic principles that form the heart of the ayahuasca tradition in Peru.  The course takes place at the Inkan Kena school for plant medicine, a space designed specifically for the initiation courses and ayahuasca apprenticeships.  If you feel called to learn the ancient healing traditions of ayahuasca and plant medicine, this course is a wonderful place to begin.  Even if you are already on the path to become a healer, both the initiation course and the advanced initiation course offer a chance to fully immerse yourself in the Shipibo culture and the world of plant spirit healing.

Shipibo Maestro don EnriqueHealer, Teacher, Course Leader

ayahuasca foundation initiation course leader curandero don enrique

“Don Enrique… adjectives don’t describe him.  He is by far one of the most passionate, amazing people I have ever met in my life.  He is a true teacher.  I guess all I can do is just smile and that should say enough about how much of a powerful person he is.  He will guide you, he will help you through the toughest times.  He knows exactly what you need.  Just trust him.  He’s there for you.”
– David

“Don Enrique is not from this world.  He is amazing.  He is so powerful, so caring, and loving.  You can tell he really wants to help people.  He really wants to spread his healing energy to every single one in the group and he gives a lot of himself.”
– Nick

“Don Enrique is an incredible man.  His smile is infectious.  He has this genuine caring for each of us, and he gives us the time.  His heart is in it and he loves us and it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
– Allison

“Enrique puts a lot of energy into what he does.  He works very hard in the ceremonies and outside the ceremonies.  He spends a lot of time helping us prepare with the icaros and spends a lot of time talking about plant medicine and some about the culture of ayahuasca and the shipibo people.  He put a lot of time and energy into it and I really appreciate it.”
– Gary

“Don Enrique is the most generous person I have ever encountered.  He has made many sacrifices in his life in order to heal people, who is knowledgeable and so wonderful at what he does, and who has helped me tremendously.  I had a lot of insight and I think that I will be living my life in a much simpler way.  I think I have learned to let go of many useless things and many useless habits and attitudes and I think my life will be simpler and lighter and nicer. “
– Anne Marie

“Don Enrique is a master healer.  He is a beautiful human with a huge heart.  He’s a true teacher.  He wants to share his power, his vision, he just wants to put it on us and let us heal the world.  I feel completely safe drinking with him and honored to be working with him.  His work is just so potent to the core, enabling.  He’s a beautiful, beautiful person and a master curandero.”
– Kieron

What Is Taught On the CoursesPhilosophy, Understanding, Methodology, and Practice

CURANDERISMO

A great deal of attention is devoted to learning the healing songs of the tradition, called icaros.  Students receive an mp3 player with over a dozen icaros and the lyrics and translations.  These icaros are powerful healing teals and form the backbone of the ceremonies and the tradition as a whole, for they are a key method for communicating with the spirits.

All of the icaros are in the Shipibo language, so there is emphasis on the language to understand its basic mechanics.  Knowing phrases related to various aspects of work done with the icaros provides the ability to modify icaros for more specific purposes.

Students learn how to make ayahuasca by observing and taking part in the process.  Beyond understanding the physical process, students can experience how powerful the connection between the curanderos and spirits becomes when one works directly with the plants, most especially when making your own ayahuasca.

Mapacho, the jungle tobacco, is an important tool in the tradition.  Students learn to soplay, a technique that involves blow smoke, for various reasons.  Learning to soplay is a vital aspect of the Shipibo healing tradition.

Another essential tool for curanderos is agua florida, a perfume made from flower essences.  Students learn to soplay with this perfume, which involves spraying the liquid with the mouth.  They also learn a technique called ‘chupando’ which involves sucking through the liquid while it is in the mouth.  These are important techniques.

Plant dietas are what make curanderos.  It is through dietas that curanderos build relationships with plant spirits, strengthening connections and communication.  Ultimately, the plant spirits are the teachers, and the method by which the teachings are enhanced is through plant dietas.  Students do at least two plant dietas during each course.

WORKING WITH AYAHUASCA

Ayahuasca ceremonies form the heart of the Shipibo tradition.  Through the ceremonies, curanderos gain access to a more profound form of communication with the spirits, and important healing work is done during these ceremonies.  Students practice icaros and techniques, and discover their own navigation tools and understanding during the ceremonies.  Students lead their own ceremonies as well.

In order to lead an ayahuasca ceremony, a student must understand how to open a ceremony properly.  This process provides access for the curandero and participants to enter the spiritual dimension and for the spirits to enter into the ceremony to do work.  It is an essential part of leading ayahuasca ceremonies.

Another important understanding is how to raise and lower the mareacion, the effects of ayahuasca, in order to achieve the optimal healing environment level for the most effective work to be done.  Bringing on the effects, leveling them off, and lowering the effects are all important tools.

A great deal of healing work is accomplished in ayahuasca ceremonies.  Much of this healing is motivated and directed by the curandero, using connections built by the plant dietas and through communication provided by the icaros.  Understanding this process is obviously very important.

Ceremony participants can have a wide variety of reactions to the healing process, and sometimes, they need help.  Students learn how to help people who are overwhelmed by the experience, who are in pain, who are suffering for various reasons, in order to return them to a state where the most effective healing can be achieved.

Just as opening a ceremony is important, so is closing the ceremony.  The opening to the spiritual dimensions needs to be closed to ensure the protection of ceremony participants once they leave the safety of the ceremony space and curandero’s guidance.  Closing a ceremony is also an essential part of the process.

PLANT MEDICINE

Plant baths are one of the main principles of the healing tradition.  Students learn how to prepare and administer these baths, and gain the understanding of how they work through direct experience and practice.

An incredible healing technique, vapor baths are another principle component to the healing tradition.  Students learn to prepare and administer vapor baths, and experience first hand the powerful effect of this important treatment method.

Purgatives form an essential part of the healing tradition.  One of the principle components of the tradition, students learn to prepare and administer several purgative treatments, and experience their effects for themselves as well.

Another treatment method is the use of inhalants that are ingested nasally.  This important method is used in various treatments.  Like most treatment methods taught during the course, students learn first hand what the effects are in order to fully understand the treatment process.

The most classic of the treatment methods, a wide variety of plant remedies are used in the healing process.  Students learn to prepare and administer some of the remedies, but there are too many to learn experientially, so the focus is usually on remedies that are needed by students themselves or family members.

A topical treatment used for a variety of conditions, poultices are also an important part of the healing process, when needed.  Students observe and assist in the preparation and administration of poultices.

 INKAN KENA School for Plant Medicine

The Ayahuasca Foundation designed their school, Inkan Kena, specifically for the Curandero Initiation Courses.  Built and owned by don Enrique, the school is the perfect place to study the healing tradition of curanderismo in the Amazon Rainforest.  Getting there from Iquitos takes about two and a half hours, which includes a 45 minute hike deep into the jungle.  The school is surrounded by medicinal plants, which don Enrique continues to plant, so that fewer trips are needed out of the area to acquire medicinal plants to make ayahuasca or prepare plant baths, vapor baths, or medicinal remedies.  The main area of the school was built around a very sacred tree within the shipibo tradition, and students on the Curandero Initiation Course now diet with that plant, a luminescent tree, of which there are two on the property.

ayahuasca foundation - ayahuasca retreats in peru, initiation courses - Inkan Kena School for plant medicine

   Six Week Curandero Initiation CoursesA Traditional Initiation into Curanderismo

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_01_376VThe Ayahuasca Curandero Initiation Course is intended for people who want to take their study of the Amazon healing arts more seriously. Students will spend 40 days in the jungle with the Shipibo curandero don Enrique and our team of healers at the Ayahuasca Foundation’s remote Curandero School, drinking ayahuasca in ceremony 18 times or more. At the root of the course, students follow true plant diets with one or two sacred and powerful plants. A major focus of the course is the use of icaros, sung during healings and in ceremonies. Therefore, the Shipibo language is also a focus, as the icaros are sung in Shipibo. This course is held at our Curandero School, located in a different part of the rainforest, and which requires a bus ride and a 45 minute hike into the jungle.

Students follow an intense but abbreviated version of a traditional, authentic shipibo initiation. The accommodations at the jungle curandero school have modern amenities like running water, a gas stove, and limited electricity. There is also limited phone service at the school, but no access to internet. The food will be prepared by our experienced staff, adhering to the traditional diet food eaten during an authentic initiation. Students receive initiate’s clothing made by the shipibo, also according to their tradition. The AF team leads this course with total attention to the students and to the teachings of the science of healing so that everyone sees, hears, experiences, and understands plant spirit healing to the most profound level possible in their six weeks in the Amazon Rainforest. The six week initiation is held three times each year, according to the course schedule.

It takes years to become a true maestro, but with the proper foundation in the principles of plant medicine, students can find their way much more easily down a path that can often times be confusing. The courses provide a basic training in these principles: how to prepare the sacred plant medicine ayahuasca, how to lead ceremonies, connect and communicate with spirits, do proper plant dietas, prepare a numerous variety of plant remedies and administer important treatment methods such as plant baths, vapor baths, purgatives, inhalants, massage, and work done with mapachos and agua florida.

Shipibo curanderos with decades of experience teach the courses, assisted by qualified, english speaking student healers, who translate the lectures and workshops led by the maestros, lead their own lectures and workshops, and contribute other complimentary methods, practices, and perspectives to enhance the learning experience. The opportunity to study in this way is rare but important in an age where the wisdom of these healing traditions is so desperately needed to restore balance to the world. It will take many more healers on the planet to achieve that balance, and the Ayahuasca Foundation strives to educate and train the future healers of the world.

Cost of the Six Week Initiation Course: US$4250The $4250 price includes:

• Pre-program counseling session with AyaHelp.com
Gain insights into preparing mentally, physically, and emotionally

• Accommodations for three nights at a hotel in Iquitos
For the first night and last two nights of the course – the hotel has wi-fi

• Accommodations for 38 nights at the Inkan Kena School
Rustic accommodations with running water and limited electricity

• Transportation to and from the School
Comfortable buses take students to the trail to hike in

• At least two meals a day, always following the ‘dieta’ in the jungle
Fresh fruit, juice, eggs, steamed vegetables, rice, lentils, quinoa, grilled fish, potatoes, etc.

• Up to 19 traditional ayahuasca ceremonies
There may only be 17 or 18 ceremonies depending on the flow of the course

• An mp3 player with don Enrique’s icaros to learn
Listening to the icaros is a huge help for learning them

• Translation of all lectures, presentations, workshops, and discussions
Course assistants will also add their own experiences, teachings, and explanations

• Hand made ceremonial tunic
All made by the shipibo tribe in the traditional style

• Medical treatment for any conditions
Don Enrique will attend to all the students’ afflictions

• Healing tools like mapachos and agua florida
Essential for the study of curanderismo

• USB of photos taken and ceremony recordings from the course
Ceremonies will be recorded and photos will be taken during the course

• Many more gifts and educational items that you’ll pick up along the way 
You’ll receive other gifts and healing tools as well

• Post-program counseling session with AyaHelp.com
Discuss your experiences and the process of integration when you get home

An Example Itinerary for the Course:A Daily Schedule of Workshops, Lectures, and Activities

The content of each course is guided by the plant spirits and catered to the specific group of students participating in that course. Therefore, it is difficult to provide an accurate timeline or schedule. Below is an example of what took place during a previous course and can demonstrate the amount and variety of content covered.

WEEK ONE
SUNDAY: Arrive and stay in a hotel for one night. Meet the other students and curandero.
MONDAY: Go to curandero school and settle in. Ceremony discussion.  CEREMONY #1
TUESDAY: Take a powerful purgative called Sangre de Grado. Dieta discussion.
WEDNESDAY: Begin the first plant dieta with a two day fast. Vapour baths begin. Talk on consciousness. CEREMONY #2
THURSDAY: Tobacco and soplaying/Ceremony preparation workshop with mapacho.
FRIDAY: Have hands painted to signify the diet. Vapor baths begin.  CEREMONY #3
SATURDAY: Continue vapor baths. Workshop on healing songs called Icaros. Introduction to mindfulness meditation.

WEEK TWO
SUNDAY: Continue vapor baths.  Icaros workshop. Talk on history of ceremonial tobacco and perfume. CEREMONY #4
MONDAY: Continue vapor baths with students administering them to each other.
TUESDAY: Take second purgative called Pinon Blanco. Workshop on communicating with your diet. CEREMONY #5
WEDNESDAY: Cold water baths preparation and administration.  Practice Icaros.
THURSDAY: Plant baths continue. Talk on visions and spirit contact.  CEREMONY #6
FRIDAY: Baths continue. Workshop on shipibo language and culture.  Icaros workshop.
SATURDAY: Baths continue. Workshop on opening/running a ceremony. CEREMONY #7

WEEK THREE
SUNDAY: Baths, workshop on ceremony procedure continues.  Practice icaros.
MONDAY: Baths. Ceremonial techniques: soplando and chupando.  CEREMONY #8
TUESDAY: Workshop on cooking ayahuasca.  Students prepare the medicine.
WEDNESDAY: Ayahuasca preparation continues. Practice Icaros.  CEREMONY #9
THURSDAY: Finish ayahuasca preparation. Rest and relax.
FRIDAY: First inhalant, preparation and administration. Icaros workshop. CEREMONY #10
SATURDAY: Half way point in course.  Review with curandero/assistant healers.

WEEK FOUR
SUNDAY: Begin second diet (optional), starting with a two day fast.  CEREMONY #11
MONDAY: The 2nd half of the course features curandero-guided student-led ceremonies. Take third purgative.
TUESDAY: Walk around the camp/jungle learning about plants. CEREMONY #12
WEDNESDAY: Plant remedy workshop: remedies for a variety of conditions. Workshop on the Doctrine of Signatures.
THURSDAY: Students prepare and take second series of cold baths. Practice Icaros. CEREMONY #13
FRIDAY: Another plant walk to learn about plants and their properties and uses. Workshop on plant communication.
SATURDAY: Students prepare another bath.  Practice Icaros. Loving/kindness meditation introduced.   CEREMONY #14

WEEK FIVE
SUNDAY: Another plant remedy workshop.  Plant baths.  Icaros, techniques.
MONDAY: Talk on herbalism/household plant rememdies.  CEREMONY #15
TUESDAY: Take another powerful purgative and complete the cleansing process.
WEDNESDAY: Workshop for therapeutic massage.  Icaros. CEREMONY #16
THURSDAY: Talk about plants contained in all baths, amazonian and international alternatives given.
FRIDAY: Course begins to wind down.  Practice and review. CEREMONY #17
SATURDAY: Final questions about the future as healers in their home countries.

WEEK SIX
SUNDAY: Relax and work on personal areas that need work.  CEREMONY #18
MONDAY: Practice the dieta ending dances and icaros.  Relax.
TUESDAY: Final ceremony led by curandero. Receive Arcanas. CEREMONY #19
WEDNESDAY: Diet ends with a sacred ceremony. Enjoy delicious food and relax.
THURSDAY: Head back to town and spend the night in Iquitos. Internet, laundry, etc.
FRIDAY: Shopping for needed items like palo santo, sangre de grado, or gifts.
SATURDAY: Receive course certificates and DVDs. Say your goodbyes…

Each course is different and the itinerary is subject to change according to the flow of the course.  Daily routines that include meditation, yoga, or other disciplines will be offered.  The plants used in the dietas, baths,  vapor baths, and remedies are all subject to change for each course.   Material may be added or changed, and the order of workshops and discussions may also change for any particular course.  We continue to improve the course each time, so the changes may not yet be reflected on the website.

Six and Ten Week Initiation Course Schedule:Upcoming courses at the Inkan Kena School

Dates Program Available Spots Register
March 27 - May 7, 2016 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250 2
June 12 - August 20, 2016 10 Week Advanced Course – $6450 4
October 9 - November 19, 2016 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250 5

   Ten Week Advanced Initiation CoursesA Deep Immersion into Shipibo Curanderismo

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_02_376sThis course is similar to the six week Ayahuasca Initiation Course, but goes much more in depth. It provides students with the greatest opportunity to learn the healing tradition of curanderismo. It is truly an amazing experience to diet with the plants and receive teachings from genuine authentic shipibo curanderos as well as from long time students of the tradition, who are great examples of what new students are striving to achieve. The course provides a very unique opportunity to diet with one of the most powerful plants in the Amazon Rainforest. This luminescent tree is vary rare, and we are lucky to have two of them near the Curandero School, which was built in its location because of its proximity to these trees. The Curandero School is located in a different part of the Amazon Rainforest than our healing retreat center, and requires a 90 minute bus ride and a 45 minute hike to get there.

More than just an extended version of the Initiation Course, students in the Advanced Course will have a much more complete teaching, with the chance to lead two ceremonies each on their own, as well as perform much more of the healing treatments than provided in the six week course. The Advanced Initiation Course is the equivalent of what would normally take a year or more of study in the jungle. This is definitely not a vacation. It is an intense immersion into the world of curanderismo and the plant spirit healing traditions of the Shipibo. It is intended for people who have had experience with ayahuasca or shamanic practices and want to go much deeper in the work. It is for people who truly wish to be curanderos. The six week course is a fantastic introduction, but if you are definitely sure that this is the path for you, the Advanced Intiation Course is the best option available.

Cost of the Ten Week Advanced Initiation: US$6450The $6450 price includes:

• Pre-program counseling session with AyaHelp.com
Gain insights into preparing mentally, physically, and emotionally

• Accommodations for two nights at a hotel in Iquitos
The first night, during the break, and the last two nights – the hotel has wi-fi

• Accommodations for sixty-six nights at the  Jungle Camp
Rustic accommodations in beautiful jungle settings

• Transportation to and from the Camp
Comfortable buses take students to the trail to hike in

• At least two meals a day, always following the ‘dieta’  in the jungle
Fresh fruit, juice, eggs, steamed vegetables, rice, lentils, quinoa, grilled fish, potatoes, etc.

• Up to 32 traditional ayahuasca ceremonies
There may only be 30 or 31 ceremonies depending on the flow of the course

• An mp3 player with the curanderos’ icaros to be learned
Being able to repeatedly listen to the 18 icaros is a huge help for learning them

• Translation of all lectures, presentations, workshops, and discussions
Course assistants will also add their own experiences, teachings, and explanations

• Medical treatment any illnesses and conditions
The curanderos will attend to all the students’ afflictions

• Healing tools like mapachos, agua florida, and massage pomades
Essential for the study of curanderismo

• DVDs of photos taken and ceremony recordings from the course
Ceremonies will be recorded and pictures will be taken during the course

• Many more gifts and educational items that you’ll pick up along the way 
You’ll receive other gifts and healing tools as well

• Post-program counseling session with AyaHelp.com
Discuss your experiences and the process of integration when you get home

An Example Itinerary for the Course:A Daily Schedule of Lectures, Workshops and Activities

The content of each course is guided by the plant spirits and catered to the specific group of students participating in that course. Therefore, it is difficult to provide an accurate timeline or schedule. Below is an example of what took place during a previous course and can demonstrate the amount and variety of content covered.

WEEK ONE
SUNDAY: Arrive and stay in a hotel for one night. Meet the other students and curandero.
MONDAY: Go to the school and settle in. Ceremony discussion.  CEREMONY #1
TUESDAY: Take a powerful purgative called Sangre de Grado to clean out the stomach.
WEDNESDAY: Begin the first plant dieta with a two day fast.  CEREMONY #2
THURSDAY: Tobacco and soplaying/ceremony preparation workshop with mapacho.
FRIDAY: Have hands painted to signify the diet.  Plant baths begin.  CEREMONY #3
SATURDAY: Continue plant baths with students administering them to each other.

WEEK TWO
SUNDAY: Continue plant baths with other plant preparation.  CEREMONY #4
MONDAY: Continue plant baths.  Healing song (icaro) group workshop.
TUESDAY: Vapor bath preparation and administration.  CEREMONY #5
WEDNESDAY: Continue with vapor baths with students giving the baths.
THURSDAY: Vapor baths continue.  Agua Florida workshop.  CEREMONY #6
FRIDAY: Pinon blanco cleanse.  Meditation. Vision navigation discussion.
SATURDAY: Medicinal plant remedy preparation and administration.  CEREMONY #7

WEEK THREE
SUNDAY: Jungle walk to learn about plant identification and medicinal properties.
MONDAY: Another medicinal plant preparation workshop.  CEREMONY #8
TUESDAY: Rest and relax for a day. Practice soplaying and singing the icaros.
WEDNESDAY: Medicinal plant discussion, connecting with the spirits.  CEREMONY #9
THURSDAY: Take part in the preparation of the sacred brew ayahuasca.
FRIDAY: Continue ayahuasca preparation.  Cushma charging. CEREMONY #10
SATURDAY: Finish ayahuasca preparation.  First plant dieta ends.

WEEK FOUR
SUNDAY: Go into town for a three day break.  Recharge and Relax.
MONDAY: Have fun, eat some good food, communicate with friends and family.
TUESDAY: Last day of break. Have dinner together with the group.
WEDNESDAY: Return to the camp. Prepare for ceremonies. CEREMONY #11
THURSDAY: Second plant dieta begins with a two day fast…
FRIDAY: Student-led ceremonies begin… CEREMONY #12
SATURDAY: Medicinal plant remedy preparation and administration.

WEEK FIVE
SUNDAY: Bone and joint alignment and therapeutic massage workshop. More icaros. CEREMONY #13
MONDAY: Walk in the jungle to learn more about the plants and the medicinal properties.
TUESDAY: Student led ceremonies continue. Vision discussion. CEREMONY #14
WEDNESDAY: Experience back to back ceremonies… CEREMONY #15
THURSDAY: Continue to practice, going over any questions with the curandero & guides.
FRIDAY: Study the icaros and practice soplaying, chupando. CEREMONY #16
SATURDAY: Workshops on diagnosing illnesses, finding plant remedies…

WEEK SIX
SUNDAY: Discussions on shipibo translations of icaros.  CEREMONY #17
MONDAY: Review of soplaying, chupando, opening the ceremony properly.
TUESDAY: Learning a new icaro.  Group singing workshop.  CEREMONY #18
WEDNESDAY: Meditation continues with new technique.  Journey work…
THURSDAY: Review of Agua florida workshop. Perfumes…  CEREMONY #19
FRIDAY: Vision discussions. Meditations continue. Practice the icaros.
SATURDAY: Medicinal plant remedy preparation and administration.  CEREMONY #20

WEEK SEVEN
SUNDAY: Jungle walk to learn about plant identification and medicinal properties.
MONDAY: Another medicinal plant preparation workshop.  CEREMONY #21
TUESDAY: Rest and relax for a day. Practice soplaying and singing the icaros.
WEDNESDAY: Connecting with the spirits workshop and discussion.  CEREMONY #22
THURSDAY: Deeper discussion of connecting to God during the icaros.
FRIDAY: Continue the icaros.  Sacha mango sinus cleanse. CEREMONY #23
SATURDAY: Take part in the preparation of the sacred brew ayahuasca.

WEEK EIGHT
SUNDAY: Continue with ayahuasca preparation again.  CEREMONY #24
MONDAY: Meditation. Practice icaros.  Diet goes deeper. Diet discussion.
TUESDAY: Mucura sinus cleanse again.  More plant baths.  CEREMONY #25
WEDNESDAY: Plant baths continue.  Student preparation and administration.
THURSDAY: More icaros.  Group discussion.  Singing workshop. CEREMONY #26
FRIDAY: Practice the icaros. Continue meditations. The student led ceremonies continue…
SATURDAY: Preparation for intensive week of diet.  Meditation.  CEREMONY #27

WEEK NINE
SUNDAY: Five days of silence begins.  Practice icaros, prayers, soplaying, chupando, etc.
MONDAY: Meditation.  Walking in jungle.  Silence continues.  CEREMONY #28
TUESDAY: Silence continues.  Diet goes much deeper.  Connecting with plants.
WEDNESDAY: Silence goes deeper and deeper.  Further connection. CEREMONY #29
THURSDAY: Final day of silence. Continue to practice, meditate…
FRIDAY: Integration workshop.  Final student led ceremony. CEREMONY #30
SATURDAY: Discussion about the students’ future as healers. Practice dance.

WEEK TEN
SUNDAY: Discussion on arcanas.  Arcana ceremony.  CEREMONY #31
MONDAY: Final discussion about healing. Questions and answers. Practice dance.
TUESDAY: Final ceremony led by curandero. Receive Arcanas. CEREMONY #32
WEDNESDAY: Diet ends with a sacred ceremony. Enjoy delicious food and relax.
THURSDAY: Final day in the jungle. Say goodbyes.  Head back to Iquitos.
FRIDAY: Internet, laundry, etc.  Visit the butterfly farm outside of Iquitos.  relax.
SATURDAY: Receive course certificates and get gifts or medicines. Say your goodbyes…

Six and Ten Week Initiation Course Schedule:Upcoming courses at the Inkan Kena School

Dates Program Available Spots Register
March 27 - May 7, 2016 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250 2
June 12 - August 20, 2016 10 Week Advanced Course – $6450 4
October 9 - November 19, 2016 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250 5

The Traditional Plant DietaDeveloping Relationships with Plant Spirits

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Fish_376HWhereas ayahuasca forms the foundation of the indigenous plant medicine traditions of the Western Amazon, the dieta plays a crucial role in building upon that foundation.  It could be considered the support beams of the tradition, upon which the rest of the structure is built.  So what is a dieta?   In simple terms, a dieta is a contract made between a curandero, or student of curanderismo, and a particular plant spirit.  The terms of the contract are decided and agreed upon prior to the dieta taking place, and often times the motivation to do a dieta comes at the request or suggestion of the plant spirit, but can also be decided by the person.  For instance, in an ayahuasca ceremony or perhaps a dream, a plant spirit may present itself to someone and suggest that he/she do a dieta with it.  Another common practice is that a student or curandero feels a connection to a particular plant and decides to do a dieta with it, or a student’s teacher suggests that the student do a dieta.

One of the key terms of the dieta agreement is the length of the dieta, meaning for how long the dieta will be kept.  Sometimes this is as short as eight days, although more common would be months and even years.  The general agreement in a dieta is that the curandero or student will sacrifice the pleasures of physical stimulation by refraining from sex, alcohol, and sweet, spicy, salty, or rich foods.  In return for this sacrifice, the plant spirits agree to teach, guide, protect, strengthen, or endow special abilities to the person doing the dieta.  Usually, the dieta is done in near isolation in order to avoid any temptations that might come from interactions with people who are not doing or do not understand the dieta.  In some indigenous groups, like the Shipibo, people doing dietas have their faces, hands, and feet painted with a dye made from a fruit called huito so that anyone with whom they may come in contact knows to treat them appropriately, and to announce the dieta to the plant spirits.

An interesting feature of the dieta is that the terms are negotiable, meaning that while a plant spirit may initially want a dieta to be of a certain length, like one year, for example, the curandero can counter with an offer of a shorter duration, until the actual terms are agreed upon.  The other terms of the dieta, like how strict the dieta will be, can also be negotiated, although it is most likely done much less, as they are well established within the tradition.  A common example of the specifics of a dieta would be to refrain from all sexual stimulation and alcohol, and to eat just fish and green plantains for the entirety of the dieta.  Usually, only a few types of small toothless fish are eaten, perhaps due to their low fat content.

OPENING A DIETA

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Enrique_376HOnce the terms of the dieta are established, the curandero or student will then open the dieta, or have the dieta opened for them, as is the case with most students.  This is an ‘official’ announcement, made in an ayahuasca ceremony through the use of healing songs, called icaros, that the dieta has begun, or will begin the following day.  An announcement can also be made by speaking it outloud or in one’s mind to the physical plant in person, which would be done either the day of the ceremony or the following day, to help demonstrate the determination of the curandero or student and thus strengthen the connection to the plant.

After the dieta has been opened on the spiritual plane, the physical aspects of the dieta begin.  After again declaring the intentions for the dieta, the dieter ingests some form of extraction of the plant, which can be a preparation made from boiling the leaves, the bark, or the roots of the plant, or by soaking them in alcohol, or even by smoking a pipe made from the wood of the plant.  An extraction of tobacco is added to the preparation, as well, or in the case of smoking the pipe, tobacco would be used as the smoking material.  A particular type of tobacco is used in the Amazon traditions, called mapacho, known scientifically as nicotiana rustica.  The addition of tobacco plays an important role, as it creates a direct link to the plant, so that smoking mapacho during the dieta connects the dieter to the plant spirit being dieted.  Therefore, dieters are encouraged to smoke mapacho, with intention, and if possible using a pipe made from the plant being dieted, to enhance the effect of the dieta.

The preparation of the dieta plant and mapacho is ingested and the dieter then fasts for at least two days.  Water is often limited during this time, as well.  The same preparation is ingested the following day, and possibly on consecutive days as well or again after a period of time.  Once the fast is complete, the dieter then begins eating according to the terms worked out.  In the case of students, their teacher may negotiate a less restrictive dieta that includes rice, beans, some vegetables, and even bananas, however the student may also decide on his/her own to keep a more strict dieta to further emphasize his/her determination.  Ultimately, it is the dieter who must keep the dieta, but if the terms were established by the teacher, the teacher will also take responsibility for the student keeping the dieta.

THE COMPLETE DIETA

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Tree_376HWhile the outward expression of the dieta is often talked about in terms of food restrictions and sexual abstinence, the dieta goes much deeper than the physical aspects.  Thoughts have a very important role in the dieta.  When the dieta is considered as a demonstration of determination, it is easy to see how the physical act of abstinence and eating is just touching the surface.  Being unhappy or complaining about the dieta, fantasizing about sex or favorite foods like hot fudge sundaes is also a demonstration of determination, or the lack thereof.  Preventing oneself from getting angry, from doubting or losing faith in the process, or thinking negatively about the dieta are also important restrictions.  The dieta does not just take place at the dinner table.  It happens 24 hours a day, even during sleep.

During waking hours, time is often spent in contemplation of the plant spirit, learning and singing icaros for the plant spirit, spending time with the actual plant, and communicating with the plant through the use of mapacho.  By smoking mapacho with the intention of connecting with the plant spirit, dieters further their connection and enhance their communication.  Dialogues can be formed, and interactions can take place in trance like states produced by smoking or in dreams.  The spirit of the plant can be felt on subtle levels and dieters can become more aware of those sensations by directing their attention to them.  The purpose of the dieta is to build a relationship with the plant spirit, and just like with building relationships with other people, the more sincere, honest, and well-intentioned attention a dieter gives to the plant spirit, the better the relationship will be.  More energy given results in more energy received.

As the dieta progresses, the sensations and communications get stronger.  The relationship becomes closer and deeper, eventually forming a special bond, a friendship between the dieter and the plant spirit.  It is through this friendship that the curandero or student receives benefit from the relationship, the fruits of the dieta.  This new friend provides information, guidance, and energy to assist in the healing process.  Sometimes, it takes time for a friendship to develop, especially if the dieters determination is not completely solid, and there is no guarantee as to what will result from a dieta, but if it is done right, with the right intentions, thoughts, actions, and energy, it should produce a beneficial connection that will continue to develop after the dieta has been completed or closed.

CLOSING A DIETA

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Leaf_376HWhen the length and terms of a dieta have been fulfilled, then the dieta is closed.  Like with the opening of the dieta, this is typically done with an ayahuasca ceremony, where the dieta is declared ‘officially’ complete, and tremendous gratitude is expressed to the plant spirit in the form of icaros and prayers.  Statements are made regarding future plans to cultivate the relationship and use it for the betterment of humankind.  The following morning, within some traditions, another ceremony takes place where the dieter does a particular dance accompanied by song to again express gratitude and to give thanks, and the dieter then ingests a particular food, like hot peppers with salt, or fermented corn or yucca, before easing back into a ‘normal’ diet again.

There is also a post-dieta dieta, which may seem confusing, but is also important.  The basic idea is that during the dieta a strong relationship is formed, and a great deal of attention and energy is shared, so even though the contractual agreement of the dieta has been fulfilled, a dieter should continue to give energy, thought, and feelings to the plant spirit, which would also be expressed in actions.  Therefore, it is important to maintain the same reverence for the plant spirit, even during the ingestion of salt, sugar, oil, etc. so as not to disrespect the relationship or devalue the willingness to make sacrifices.  A dieter shouldn’t want to run out and do all the things that were sacrificed for the dieta, even though he/she is, technically, free to do so.   Perhaps it could be understood through this example: If a man enters a relationship with a woman as her boyfriend (which could also be considered as a type of contract with negotiable terms like exclusive physical intimacy) and then after a period of time, the two decide to mutually end that relationship, but remain friends, it would be disrespectful for the man (or woman) to have sex with someone else the next day or soon after, as their friendship would most likely suffer as a result.

BREAKING A DIETA

Considering the dieta as a contract, especially a relationship contract, which is a familiar concept in nearly every society, can be helpful when trying to understand the dieta within the tradition of curanderismo.  As is the case with relationships between boyfriends and girlfriends, or husbands and wives, breaking the terms of the contract results in consequences.  In the case of actual, legally binding contracts like pre-nuptial agreements, the terms of those consequences may also be agreed upon, and most divorce courts recognize a general form of consequences as well.  Within the traditions of curanderismo, it is believed that breaking plant spirit relationship contracts, or dietas, also has consequences, and that those consequences are proportionate to three factors.

The first factor would certainly be the form of the breach in contract.  Sex or sexual stimulation is considered the worst breach of a dieta and would thus result in the most severe consequences.  The degree of disrespect to the terms would play a factor in the consequences, especially regarding other breaches, like naked fondling compared to kissing, or eating a hot fudge sundae compared to putting salt on a grilled fish, or screaming at someone in anger compared to getting frustrated with the lack of connection felt, or fantasizing about sex compared to reminiscing about the sweetness of mangoes.  The consequence is proportionate to the act.

The second factor would be the experience level of the dieter.  A student doing a dieta for the first time would not face the same consequences as a curandero with many years of experience doing his/her 40th dieta.  How well the dieta and its importance is understood and accepted by the dieter would be a factor in the severity of the consequences for a breach.  The depth of a relationship with a plant spirit would usually be much deeper for an experienced curandero and therefore he/she should simply know better than a student not to break a dieta.

The third factor would be the particular personality of the plant spirit.  Some plant spirits are known to be very strict and unforgiving while others are more easy going and willing to let things slide a bit.  The consequences for the same breach in two different dietas with different plants might vary significantly due to the nature or personality of the plant spirit.  This factor is also involved when negotiating the terms of a dieta, and is usually indicative at that time of how consequences will most likely be handled, although within the tradition the personalities of particular plant spirits is often well known historically.  Extra caution is sometimes advised by a teacher or elder curandero when one of these plants is going to be dieted, accompanied by remarkable stories recounting previous experiences of severe punishments.

So what are the consequences?  Within the tradition, and depending on the factors just mentioned, the consequences range from lessening a connection to the plant spirit all the way to becoming seriously ill or dying.  The most common consequence would likely be blocking the dieter from having visions during ceremonies, although nearly every curandero has stories about incredibly severe consequences like losing the ability to walk or talk, or having bad things happen continuously until the breach is rectified.  Consequences tend to be permanent unless the situation is resolved.  Traditionally, this is done by redoing the diet, but for twice as long as the original.

Many people outside of the cultural tradition of curanderismo have trouble understanding the concept of consequences, feeling that plant spirits are like enlightened beings, and therefore would never punish someone, but I think in the context of a contractual agreement, consequences might make more sense.  Even with the perception that plant spirits are loving and benevolent, and understanding of consequences is quite logical.  Parents teach the concept of consequences to their children to prepare them to be adults.  They teach their children about consequences because they love their children, and want to instill in them the ability to make appropriate decisions.  I think plant spirits are doing the same thing.  Of course, everyone is free to think whatever they like.  What I have presented is merely my interpretation of what I have been taught by my teachers and by what I have experienced myself by doing dietas.  It took a decade of study for me to reach this understanding, and I am sure I will continue to develop my perspective and ideas in the future.

NOTE: Recently, since foreigners have begun drinking ayahuasca and a tourist industry has formed around ayahuasca ceremonies and treatments with curanderos, a new diet has emerged that most people refer to as the ayahuasca diet.  This diet was designed to keep people safe during the ceremonies.  Ayahuasca can have dangerous effects when mixed with certain substances, namely pharmaceutical medication and most specifically anti-depressant medication or SSRIs.  Other negative effects are possible when mixing ayahuasca with some foods as well, like dairy products, but this diet is different from the dieta described above.  While the ayahuasca diet can be used to demonstrate one’s determination and is a good idea, it should not be confused with the traditional dieta that forms such an integral part of the science of plant medicine in the Amazon Rainforest.

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