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Ayahuasca Introduction

"There's more to Ayahuasca than what's in the cup."
- Don Howard

Why did Don Howard state that there is more to Ayahuasca than what's in the cup? You couldn't possibly consume all that there is to Ayahuasca in a cup or in a liquid brew. In addition to what’s in the cup, at SpiritQuest we work with you to form the proper intention, mindset, and heartset to bring to your work with Ayahuasca, as they are all exceedingly important parts of the process. We also provide you with an impeccable setting, with extremely experienced Shamans who have been working with Ayahuasca and plant medicines their entire lives, and we will guide you with care and expertise through each step in the process. 


Work with Ayahuasca - and it is definitely work! - is not a singular experience or event. It is a process. An Ayahuasca cycle at SpiritQuest typically consists of 4 ceremonies throughout the course of an 8-day retreat.  


Many people who come to work with us at SpiritQuest remark how they form a connection with Ayahausca long before they actually drink what’s in the cup. Ayahuasca is a massive download. Ayahuasca has a way of perpetually revealing itself and passing along messages and deep insights to people as they integrate Ayahuasca into their lives. This continues to happen long after the ceremonies and intensive work with Ayahuasca have concluded.

"With Ayahuasca, the Whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
- Don Howard

Ayahuasca can refer to both 1) the medicine that people orally digest as well as 2) the Ayahuasca vine, which is indigenous to the Amazon.


What does the word Ayahuasca mean? In the Quechua languages, aya means spirit, soul, corpse, or dead body, and huasca means rope or vine. Combine those together, and Ayahuasca means vine of the soul, vine of the spirit, or vine of the dead. 


Ayahuasca - also known as Mother Ayahuasca or Grandmother Ayahuasca - is regarded as the Mother of All Plants. Mother Ayahuasca communicates with and potentiates the energies and different healing qualities of other plants. Ayahuasca additionally potentiates the setting in which it is taken as well as the people in that environment. Ayahuasca creates an opening for the companion plant medicines in the Ayahuasca brew to be more effective. The Ayahuasca vine serves as an inhibitor of a digestive enzyme allowing, among other things, DMT in the companion plants to be taken up in the stomach via oral administration. The companion plants, much like Ayahuasca, are agents of consciousness, and together they facilitate holistic healing, spiritual healing, and create a channel for people to access realms of higher consciousness. 


When it comes to Ayahuasca from an ethnobotany perspective, as well in so many other areas, the Whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

"Ayahuasca is a sacred plant modality that presents itself as a difficult path lined with tests. The tests go specifically to your weaknesses. The whole point is to strengthen your weaknesses and grow from that point on, turning those weaknesses into strengths. That results in an exponentially fast pace of personal development and evolution of consciousness. That process is facilitated as much by how you do it, where you do it, and why you do it as by the plant itself.

- Don Howard

Boiled down to one word, Ayahuasca is about confrontation. You will have an experience dialed up for you – both during the ceremonies and outside of the ceremonies – that will confront you. It will challenge you. It will test you. It may take you through your deepest fears, or take you through various areas in your life that you have been avoiding or procrastinating but deep down you know you need to address these items. You may have relatively successfully suppressed these areas through much of your life, but they are still wielding a negative influence. 




This excellent video documentary, produced by Aubrey Marcus and Mitch Schultz, follows an Ayahuasca SpiritQuest Listening to the Plants retreat at SpiritQuest Sanctuary.

"Work with Ayahuasca is not easy. It's very, very hard. We do this not because it's easy, but because it's so challenging. This contributes to the effectiveness of Ayahuasca as a healing process.

Work with Ayahuasca is not for everybody. But for those that are right for Ayahausca, Ayahuasca is probably the best option that there is." 

- Don Howard

Throughout the course of human history, there has always been a mystical calling associated with Ayahuasca. The sole, legitimate response to coming to work with Ayahausca is based on a personal calling to it and the nature of that person's intention. 


When you work with Ayahuasca with the proper set and setting, you develop and cultivate your own, custom design, tailor-made, and one-of-a-kind relationship with Ayahuasca. It’s uniquely your own, and it’s personal. A lot of that relationship is because work with Ayahuasca is interactive, synergistic, and you are at a point in your life when you are ready to significantly level up or make a dramatic change. 


Make no mistake about it: work with Ayahuasca is indeed work! Many graduates of SpiritQuest express that their work with Ayahuasca was one of - if not the most - difficult and challenging experience of their lives. At the same time, many graduates of SpiritQuest assert that their work with Ayahuasca was one of - if not the most - rewarding and beneficial experiences of their lives. The benefits can be profoundly healing, transformative, and enduring, bringing new dimensions and a fresh start to your life.

"Ayahuasca is an extremely holistic medicine with occasionally interesting side effects."
- Don Howard

Ayahuasca is not a drug. Ayahuasca is a plant medicine with a wide range of holistic healing and teaching qualities. Ayahuasca’s revelations require a sufficient degree of purification and concentration to realize the fullest benefits. We will skillfully guide you through this process. 


Work with a sacred teacher-healer plant like Ayahuasca is not a casual, recreational pursuit. It is not a "drug" experience. It is difficult and challenging holistic work requiring serious preparation and intention leading to dramatic positive benefits in your life. Our work is not about "experience" alone, it is about results. If you are a tourist merely looking for a novel vacation experience, a drug trip, adventure tourism, or Ayahuasca tourism, please look somewhere else. That’s not what we do. 


Work with Ayahuasca for many people is a very mystical and inherently ineffable experience. Don Howard describes Ayahausca as a process of conversing with a technology and channel of communication with unseen elements from a parallel universe. 


Ayahuasca provides physical healing, emotional healing, psychological healing, spiritual healing, or some/all of the above, depending upon your needs. Ayahuasca gives you what you need, not what you want. Ayahuasca works biochemically, physiologically, and psychologically. More than anything, Ayahuasca normalizes bodily function, and addresses both cause and effect.

"Mother Ayahuasca is not big on reruns."
- Don Howard

Ayahuasca is not a drug in the conventional sense, and thus does not produce the same fixed predictable effects in everyone who takes it. To the contrary, work with Ayahuasca is predictably unpredictable. The nature of the Ayahuasca ceremonial experience is highly mystical and highly variable, ranging from very mild to overwhelming, and everything in between. There is no way to predict the kind of experience you will have for any given ceremony, much less through an entire cycle of work. In a cycle of work, you are likely to have a wide spectrum of experiences.      


The experience of Ayahuasca is rarely what people expect. Although many people are infatuated with the idea of having a "vision" or some visual journey with Ayahuasca, having a vision or having visuals are not a central component to the healing process. In fact, for many people, Ayahuasca is not a visual experience. The messages that Ayahausca imparts come in many different ways.


At SpiritQuest, we prepare you to cultivate the intention, the mindset, and the heartset with guidance before the ceremony. We provide you with an immersive setting in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon that is safe, supportive, and conducive to letting your defenses down, which will allow you to truly surrender to the medicine and reap the greatest rewards. 

"We all have toxic, negative, and contaminating energy in our bodies that we're holding in our being. Ayahuasca is a process of disengaging that negative energy and allowing it to come out. It's a cleansing process that is deeply healing."
- Don Howard

Work with Ayahuasca involves a deep process of purification. This cleansing includes, but is certainly not limited to, many objects buried deep in your psyche, latent fears, and various elements that have been suppressed in your subconscious or unconscious mind for a very long time. 


We are all contaminated to various degrees, and Ayahuasca brings up some toxic and contaminating energy that we all carry in our bodies and minds. Ayahuasca efficiently purges that negative energy. Although that purge is most often associated with physical purging and vomiting, there are many different kinds of purges, including emotional purges and energetic purges that bring you tremendous catharsis, relief, and deep healing. Please recognize that Ayahausca never wants to punish you, and the purging process is, among many other areas, a specific teaching style of Mother Ayahuasca.  

"Ayahuasca is like a can opener. And you're the can."
- Don Howard

To many Western, intellectual minds, the idea of a plant having a consciousness that you could communicate with is not even remotely comprehensible. Accordingly, a large part of the work that we are utterly devoted to at SpiritQuest on a consciousness level is to open you to greater possibilities than your mind can presently conceive. Once open, it becomes an exponentially expanding process to which there is no end.  


Mother Ayahuasca is like an insightful psychotherapist that knows the patient better than the patient knows themselves. Ayahuasca has a unique way of having you realize and undeniably feel certain core truths.


Ayahuasca has an uncanny ability to directly address the cause or root of your problems. Ayahuasca doesn’t merely mask the symptoms, like with many medications. Rather, Ayahausca gets to the core of the issues and effectively addresses those issues.

As SpiritQuest graduate Amber Lyon eloquently explains:


"Ayahuasca gets in there and unlocks memories that you don't even remember that you remember and allows you to process them in a matter of hours. And that's why Ayahausca is so incredible. It knows what's bugging you. That's why some people call Ayahuasca 10 years of therapy in 1 night."

Amber Lyon interviews Don Howard about Ayahuasca for her podcast:
"In order to be of service, one must become fit for service."
- Don Howard

The first priority in work with Ayahuasca is self-honoring, and appropriately so. Before we can be of optimal service to Mother Earth and humanity, we must become fit for service. Work with Ayahuasca in the right setting with skilled Maestros will empower you to become fit for service. Our work has a way of getting you "unstuck" and providing a much-needed reset. The vast majority of people leave SpiritQuest with an enormous amount of positive trajectory, momentum, and an extreme enthusiasm to go down their path in this lifetime.

For further information about our work and Ayahuasca, we recommend that you watch the video documentary,  Ayahuasca: Drink the Jungle by Aubrey Marcus, or watch or listen to Amber Lyon's interview with Don Howard.

Additional resources for Ayahuasca may be found under our Resources tab, or on our page Ayahuasca: A Deep Dive.

"A cosmic, white-knuckle sleigh ride."
- Don Howard
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