Thinking of trying this plant medicine? Here’s what happened when I took Ayahuasca at Avalon
By Pierre Berthelot
When you think of what Ayahuasca retreats look like, you probably imagine sweaty Amazonian huts in the middle of the jungle. Or maybe a rough adobe space somewhere high up in the Andes. Rarely would a centuries-old, elegant European building in the centre of a forest come to mind. And that’s just one of the surprises Avalon’s Ayahuasca retreats in Europe brings.
Ayahuasca is a plant medicine known for connecting us to not only Mother Earth and all living things, but to what some call ‘other dimensions,’ too. But perhaps above all, Ayahuasca connects us to ourselves.
What you’ll experience in a ceremony is different every time. Some can be blissful, while others can be tough. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll puke your guts out. But believe me, it will be worth it, no matter what happens.
This is a serious healing plant, and for that reason, it’s vital to surround yourself with seasoned professionals. That’s one of the reasons I chose Avalon, a retreat set deep in a Spanish forest, just 20km from the French border.
The truth is, this would be my second time drinking Ayahuasca. The first was literally life-changing, but I wanted to go deeper. I felt a vague but urgent sense that this plant had more to teach me. I was curious to know what she had to say.
Taking Ayahuasca At Avalon
The First Day
The first day of the retreat before taking ayahuasca at Avalon was spent meeting the others in the group. There were people of all different backgrounds and countries here: French investment bankers, British yoga instructors, Russian builders, Moroccan hippies and Swiss professional athletes. A diverse group indeed, but everyone had this in common: they were friendly, open-minded and wonderful!
After a bit of chat and relaxing, we were treated to our first meal by Chef Marina.
Throughout my stay, I was always delighted by what she prepared: freshly made fruit smoothies; creative salads; beautifully presented plant-based mains, and even homemade cakes and breads. I always felt nourished by this incredible, ‘living’ food.
A walk around the grounds was just what I needed after a satisfying meal, and I wandered around, admiring the many rooms of the majestic building I would be staying in for the week. Avalon used to be a flour factory, and has been fully restored to the highest standards. All the rooms are spacious and modern; you can choose to stay in a shared room or have your own. No matter what you opt for, you’ll be delighted by crisp linens, velvet chaises and spacious private bathrooms.
What makes the place even more special is the lush surrounding nature. There’s a whopping 650.000 m2 of forest here, including two natural lakes and a river. The views from my bedroom window were simply stunning, and I was elated to be gently woken up by birdsong each morning.
More Than Ayahuasca
Although most people come to take ayahuasca at avalon, there’s plenty more on offer. For example, I experienced my first Temazcal. This was a kind of sweat lodge that went on for hours. It’s much more than a sauna. It’s really intense. Sometimes, the heat was very uncomfortable, and I was sweating buckets. Some people saw visions; I didn’t. But it was definitely a very cleansing experience!
I also enjoyed some amazing massages, as well as energy workshops designed to unblock our chakras. I also learned how to do deep breathwork to help ground and energise my body. These sessions combined a shamanic approach with the now-famous Wim Hof based method.
It’s important to note that all these different experiences are intertwined. For example, Ayahuasca works smoother in a thoroughly cleansed and detoxed body. Plus, the breathwork sessions were meant to help us learn the power of stillness and self-control, which could be quite useful during an Ayahuasca ceremony. And speaking of which…
At Last: Ayahuasca at Avalon
After much preparation for taking ayahuasca at Avalon (I gave up coffee, meat, salt, garlic, citrus, processed food and all sexual activity for two weeks, as recommended) it was time for the first Aya ceremony. After sunset, the group gathered in a magical space: a ballroom strewn with mattresses and pillows for us, and Oriental style carpets and cushions for those watching over us.
The smell of incense was thick in the air, as was the sounds of the drums, didgeridoo, flute and more. A fire was lit outside, and after drinking our ceremonial cup, we had the option of outside. I did, and was almost overwhelmed by the powerful nature all around me, and the beauty of the fireflies twinkling in the grass.
I won’t get into too much detail about what happened to me that night, but let’s just say I had some revelations that have permanently altered how I approach life. In a nutshell: I realised profoundly that our ego and emotional patterns are not who we are. That love is the only reality. You can’t decide what you’ll discover during a ceremony, but you’ll be shown what you need to know at the moment you need it. Everybody’s experience is unique.
Forming Deep Bonds
After taking ayahuasca at Avalon, we all attended Integration Circles. These were an important time during which we had the possibility to speak about and assimilate our Aya experiences. Our hosts could help us make sense of what we learned, but also advised us not to over-intellectualise the process.
During the entire week, the Shamans and their team were also available to discuss any topics at any time. I had some fabulous chats with them about the plant itself and the traditions around it; the spirit world and esoteric knowledge, for example.
The others in my group also proved to be wonderful sounding boards. You can’t help but feel a deep unity with those at the retreat. As the days pass pay, you’re bonded ever deeper. You become a kind of tribe. Furthermore, some of the group activities, such as ecstatic dance or the Circle of Men (or Women) strongly reinforce this feeling.
I can honestly say that Avalon’s Ayahuasca retreats in Europe was a truly unforgettable experience and I feel blessed to have been able to discover this magical place and its people. I know I will be back.
If you’re interested in taking ayahuasca at Avalon, please click here for more information.