This is a personal view of the mistakes that facilitators commonly make, which comes from my own experiences of taking psychoactives with other facilitators and also quite commonly hearing what other people report back to me. Whenever I have drunk with other facilitators and groups, I do often regret it, but at least I have some data on what I see as being their mistakes. Many facilitators think their way is the best way, and of course there is something for everyone – but at least I hope these insights are useful.
They Forget it is Not About Them
This is a big one. The inner work with plants that people carry out in this space, is not really about the facilitator. It is about the medicine the person is drinking, and to some degree the container the facilitator has enabled.
As a facilitator, people will often thank you profusely, and try and tell you it was you who enabled their healing and transformation, but it was never you, it was only the plants. This could get to your ego and you could start to think it is about you, and then you could get a bit self possessed and self important. Before long, you could have started a cult and sit on a throne, where everyone is facing you and feeding you grapes. This may feel gratifying to the facilitator, but it actually isn’t about them, it is about the people who are drinking and the inner work those people want to fulfill.
They Move Away from the Plants
A lot of facilitators do not brew their own medicine, so they do not really know the plants in the first place. Even those who do brew their own medicine, they may move away from what the plants are doing, into what they are doing. So their rituals, and their songs, become more important to them, than the medicine. In that case, how are the plant spirits being called in? In my view, the plants may tend to be less inclined to really engage with the people, when the facilitator is filling the space with their “show”, and the spirits may not work with the people so much and so the most essential effects of the medicine may often then be slight.
They Get Stuck in Dogma and Ritual
It can easily be the case, where the ritual and the dogma in many sessions gets in the way of people going inside themselves and doing the work. The issue is that these rituals are fixed and dogmatic in nature, and human nature is very fluid and changeable, and this is even more amplified when people take psychoactive plant medicine. One woman I know was very upset, because the facilitator was so much into continually calling in the four directions, that she was distracted to the point of not being able to go inside herself and carry out the inner work. And that is the point, that a lot of these rituals and actions, draw attention to the external world, and what is most enabling for people’s inner work, is just silence, or music which encourages us to go inside ourselves.
They Have a Mercenary and Mean Attitude to Money
I’ve been to places to drink ayahuasca, where they ask you to pay extra to hire song books and then when I wanted to stay in a hammock overnight, they wanted to charge me the same amount for a really good hotel room. I’ve also been to a mushroom group where everyone got 5 grams, even those who were not ready for 5 grams, and people had to pay extra for the mushrooms on top of the price of the group.
I’ve noticed people in general expect you to be a very uncool utter hardline bastard when it comes to money, but maybe that is just because most humans they meet are. Yet the person serving medicine is not a mercenary capitalist outfit, at least they really shouldn’t be, although people who think ayahuasca should always be completely free are obviously barking up the wrong tree. For a lot of facilitators it often just seems to become a money making enterprise for them, more like a business, where they can capitalise on the value people find in these experiences.
They Think They Must Be a Shamanic Super Duper Wizard
“You only want the best don’t you? You want to have a real Super Duper Shamanic Wizard who can pull all the right strings and give you as good as a true blue shamanic experience that you can get, without spending all that time and money going to the amazon, where surely the REAL super shamanic wizards live!”
A lot of people actually do think like this, so the facilitator, rather than being true to themselves, will claim all kinds of mysterious supernatural powers to themselves, often feeding peoples illusions regarding the nature of “shamanism.”
The issue with this is, again, is that it is not about the facilitator at the end of the day. Yes, some facilitators are actually effective spiritual healers, and do powerful work with people in these sessions. But there is an element of dick sizing, where THEY have more spiritual juju than such and such facilitator. This is really the same old story, of jealousy and competition which motivates a lot of these amazonian curanderos to the dark magic of fighting each other. Unfortunately, the same tendencies exist in the west, but the fighting normally takes the form of negative gossip.
And the sad thing is, a lot of average people on the street will look at the conduct of these facilitators (or even the gossip in its confused, untrue or quite true forms), and think that the medicine does not work if these facilitators are still so apparently errant in their ways.
Ayahuasca can amplify the ego, especially as one is seduced into distractions away from the real meat of this story. Like many video games, it does get harder and many people appear to get stuck on certain levels, and this is a well known phenomena among facilitators.
My continual advice to people is not to worry about “them” (or the stories you have heard about them), but only on yourself and what you are getting out of it. Ayahuasca unequivocally helps people in many ways, but it is far from being a panacea that will bring people kind to be kind to one another, or cure human jealousy, competition or hubris.
They Overemphasize the Outer World
What I have never understood is why people want to focus on the outer world and the other group participants, when the plants are largely calling us inside ourselves, to look within and face ourselves. You can see this overemphasis, with the idea of a mysterious and questionable origin, that sitting up straight and keeping your eyes open, is considered to be a default mode of approaching drinking ayahuasca by many. Or that sitting in some sort of circle, where you are often going to be distracted by other people, is a good default ceremonial setting. Are we really trying to create a group unity as the first priority? When isn’t supporting people’s authentic inner process the 1st priority?
They Abuse their Power
A lot of the people who start to facilitate, may start to feel they have some sort of power over other people, that people who are drinking with them, are therefore below them in a power hierarchy. But this is of course a complete illusion. Many people who get into this field, have felt disempowered in their lives, and in this role, start to become petty tyrants with their endless lists of rules.
This power is not a real power you have over others. You are there to support other people in their process, not to have any power based relationship to them, where you are considered to be higher up on the hierarchy rung than them. If anything, as a facilitator, you are there to serve them and to surrender that game entirely. People have normally paid quite a lot of money, and you are there for them. I’ve never understood facilitators who are like the soup nazi, who limit some people to only 2 cups and act like petty tyrants, it just seems stupid and unnecessary.
They Support People’s Spiritual Bypassing
Even though talking to Jesus and meeting angels and having all these spiritual experiences is fantastic and life changing, if everything is all spiritual and astral all the time, there is often no real addressing the issues that an individual has. My feeling when I have drunk in the amazon, is that the shamans have revved up the DMT visions so that you are experiencing all the Hollywood special effects, but that often there wasn’t much depth to these experiences. Ayahuasca is not just flash bang visions, it can very often be a kind of psychotherapy, where the plants are helping you to see your own incongruity, and own up to your own bullshit and often acknowledging you are full of shit, and then helping you to let that shit go.
They Think They Have to DO Something
At times, the best thing is to do, is to do nothing. When facilitators are going around and blowing tobacco smoke in people’s faces all the time, it becomes too much. They are then too in the face of the participants, distracting them. But also, much of this may come from an anxiety, a need to DO something. Some facilitators sing the whole time. Others play music. But many find it hard to just give people space into what they need to go into, as they feel they want to ad value to the space. Far too often I hear people tell me, they would rather have some silence than hear the facilitator sing all night.
We don’t ask what air hosts or air hostesses are doing most of the time when we are on a plane, we are happy they give us our meals and are pleased to be helped by them when necessary and feel safe, knowing that they are doing their job.
They Become Control Freaks
I do not see any virtues in creating a space that mirrors “Babylonian” society. To my mind, you want to create a space which mirrors the benevolence of the alchemy of plants and cultivates human potential, rather than referencing any aspect of human culture.
Therefore, all the mediums of society, the rules, the control, the structures, can truly inhibit people exploring and finding their own way. Say for some Ayahuasca churches, the individual does not even have a way, it is OUR way or the highway. For some facilitators, people need to be “held”, like babies, and they are given a very short leash in which to explore and understand, and that includes on a psychic level as well. On a physical level, they must ask permission to do anything, even to have someone go to the toilet with them.
Some people appear addicted to this sense of the “strict” seriousness, perhaps it seems more official and important, reminiscent of the army or a private school. A lot of people who lack discipline may get a lot out of a exceeding strict diet they are given, and it can be a symbol for them to take this endeavor seriously. But some facilitators seem to get quite carried away, and the list of what not to eat and what deodorant to wear can appear a bit excessive to my mind.
On that note, the list of foods not to eat can often be excessive, and as reported by Denis McKenna and others, this list of food not to combine with MAOI’s only really applies to synthetic MAOI’s, and even then, back when these pharmaceutical MAOI’s first become released to the public, did this list of food contraindicate a possible risk for some rare people some of the time. However, extremely high tyramine foods are a concern, such as red wine and blue vein cheese are actually dangerous combined with MAOI’s. For a weekend drinking ayahuasca, people should be sensible about what food they eat, but all this emphasis on the diet I think is over the top and again, can distract us away from what is actually most significant.
They Talk too Much.
I have heard of some facilitators talking for two hours before even drinking. And then carrying on certain verbal rituals for so long, that everyone is at the verge of sleep by the time the medicine is served. I don’t know about you, but I always found any kind of ritual normally exceedingly boring. I have drunk with other facilitators who try to lecture people on past lives or some such dogma, and justify it and say that words can be medicine too.
They Suppress People’s Expression
It is tough sometimes as a facilitator, to know whether to allow someone to laugh or cry. My view, it is ok for maybe 5 to 10 minutes and that both laughing and crying can be very therapeutic. If it goes on for more than 5-10 minutes and starts getting a bit “loose” and “crazy” with excessive talking in the group, I ask people to calm it down and center themselves, or go outside and be somewhere where they are not disturbing others. But some facilitators do not allow any laughter, even deep breathing is frowned upon, and they do want any sound. Yet, sometimes the verbal expression is where the healing is occurring, sometimes it may even take some loud screaming for someone to clear a block in their throat chakra.
They Close the Ceremony
I have never understood why groups need to be opened and closed. The issue with closing a ceremony is, some people may only start their journey 2 hours into drinking and then it might go for 8 hours. For myself, there is no ceremony to close, the effects of the drink continue for the individual as long as they do. Often in these type of sessions, I’m still heavily effected by the medicine when the circle is being closed!