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Ayahuasca - When Marketing Becomes the Motivator


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Ayahuasca - When Marketing Becomes the Motivator

Safah Roberts

For anyone who has been to Humbolt County in California (I hear you cheering) you are well aware of the industry that champions mother marijuana. If you pick up the local Savage Henry magazine and flip through the covers, it is astounding to see the glossy plethora of sexy, green paraphernalia for sale. It also details a slew ways to automate and maximize profits.

There is an entire culture to feel part of, finding your niche as a runner, hill-boss babe, crew leader or snipping hopeful. With legalization these roles still exist, but everyone is now handing a chunk to Uncle Sam and spending shorter stints on the declining beaches of Thailand. Marijuana has become a huge financial driver in North America.

North of the border, two major Canadian retailers reported over 10 million in profits within their first quarter of operations. Shortages due to overwhelming demand are expected to continue for another three years. It is safe to say that plants have been welcomed into the world of mainstream commerce.

So what is happening in the world of Ayahuasca?

Are we headed in the same direction?

As more and more people drink and experience epiphanies of consciousness, business savvy folk are bringing their skills to the fold. This means that more and more people are attempting to make a living by playing some part in bringing medicine to the masses. Ten years ago a center could run, relying on the fact that supply was not meeting the rapidly growing demand. Fast forward to 2019, and the opposite is now true. Now we are in a world that is increasingly consumer driven, each potential drinker scrolling through a list of centers all striving to remain viable.

To stay relevant, centers must stay on top of their SEO, invite instagram influencers, podcasters and documentary filmmakers to legitimize efforts. Although well intentioned, many of these people are in their first few years of drinking and the tough parts of the relationship have yet to be revealed. Thus leaving their audience with a rosy view and high expectations.

Others provide a high ratio of ceremonies or healers to patients to compete. Retreat schedules are packed with processing work, workshops, yoga and massages so that clients feel they are getting value for their money. Food that was traditionally served as compatible with ayahuasca opening, is being replaced with vegan fare and green smoothies. The days of the old wise man whipping the deserving student in the rain, are long long gone.

I am not saying that centers aren’t provided a safe and valuable service from the heart. They are, and they are full of hard working souls. However, it is crucial that consumers coming from a world of myriad options, be educated that this is a different paradigm. Thank goodness, because the one we have created is in unquestionable peril. If we attempt to cater to every desire, ayahuasca becomes like marijuana, becoming a tool to soothe resistance to existing regimes rather than one to wake us up and dismantle them. Women are losing reproductive rights, is this not a serious alarm? Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan buddhism stated that adversity is the practitioners true wealth. So can we be okay with less in order to learn?

Suddenly the culture many people came to the medicine to heal from has embedded itself into the entire process. Somehow if we can stay busy working on ourselves, the overwhelm and stress will heal itself in seven days. Right…?

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have had to dismantle the myth of the silver bullet. Although an immensely valuable life lesson, it’s disheartening for all parties to have to start each retreat from this place. It forced me to re-evaluate my place in the great wheel of the medicine world. I was pushed to leap from the nest and pedal the perks of boredom, starchy food and tough-love, self-reliance. If marketing an ‘experience’ becomes more important than honestly detailing the hard work, time, persistence and patience necessary to shift deeply embedded patterns and trauma, we are going in the wrong direction.

How many times do we have to be sold a dream?

Years ago, I met other souls who were part of the SLOW movement. Slow living, eating, working…being. Individuals deciding to extract less from life in order to realize the immense gift residing in the spaces between. Those whose heroes were Lao Tzu, silence and cedar trees. Those who weren’t afraid to let other people do the talking. Who set down clever quips and the need to appear intelligent/powerful and thus, important. All this came with me to the medicine work, and ayahuasca’s lessons, both subtle and lurid have only strengthened my conviction. In this too, we must slow down the pacing in order to realize the gems in the spaces. There is no short cut, and one should be wary of those who profess to have found one.

So now I seek to work and journey with souls who understand that crystallization is an infinite journey to no one place. That there will still be days when self-doubt suffocates. That forcing yourself to set down all the distractions, close your mouth and listen, is absolutely necessary to hear the quiet whisper of a soul calling. Those who understand the medicine in not going to do anything for them but point the way. Those who can trust in a tradition and set down western ‘improvements’ with childlike curiosity to see what can be learned.

Yes, there is a place for you.