Ayahuasca as a Triple Phenomenon:
The Environmental Factor
The environmental factor refers to things which are external to the individual and are capable of influencing the experience: the place where the tea is served; the atmosphere, from a cultural, spiritual and emotional point of view; how the individual is attended to; the number of people involved; the type of leadership. All these are factors to be taken into consideration.
The individual normally becomes quite impressionable when under the effects of substances like Ayahuasca, a state which results from the magnification of perception which has already been mentioned. This, coupled with the increase in perspicacity, in the capacity for metaphors and the ability to create news psycho-associations, stimulates the imaginative side of the experience.
Obviously this “impressionability” does not mean that the “ayahuasqueiro” is more easily influenced than the average person or those who believe in mass religions, for example. The degree of credulity, ingenuousness or scepticism (see note) of an individual reflects cognitive and philosophical options, as well as stable, profound and even inherent aspects of the personality, which will not be broken by the “force and influence” of the tea. On the contrary, it’s these very profound aspects of the individual – including basic tendencies such as credulity or scepticism – which determine the meaning he or she gives to the experience.
The type and quality of the belief system, or vision, which predominates in the social situation where the experience is to occur, as well as the type of leadership and the dynamic of the activities, are also essential factors which can influence to a large extent the harmony and tranquillity of the experience. It’s important to have a good description of the place where one is to take the tea. If the leadership is calm and not very interventionist, this will aid the access and study of individual “contents”, the examination and integration of one’s own path, the finding of one’s own ways and ideas.
A facilitator needs to be patient, empathic and familiar with the processes of the experience. He can be very effective if he knows how to reflect the essential points, asking questions and making apparently casual observations. Songs, music, attitudes and even the right dose of direct suggestions, can be important in making the experience smoother and richer.
The “ayahuasqueiro” will find that by sharing possible difficulties with receptive and understanding companions, he can gain clarity and comfort. Finally, and on most occasions, the best guide is our own consciousness and this internal process should not be interfered with unless this is asked for.
Inspiring, universal and holistic rituals; natural environments; spontaneous and creative activities – all these allow our attention to be focused on interesting psychic regions.
The person’s “contents”, along with the type of environment, the quality of the tea, the person’s intention and that of the group, lead to a singular process, a “gestalt”, a “greater being” – the transpersonal “I” of the experience. Recognising and being sure of being in harmony with this “greater self” generated by the event is the key to a successful group experience.
(Note: Scepticism. Attitude or doctrine according to which man cannot reach any certain knowledge, whether in the area of general truths, or in any other area of knowledge.)