Alejandro brought me to his table of rocks in the shaman hut and introduced me to another more powerful and experienced shaman friend of his who was visiting. The other shaman (whose name I’ve forgotten) had brought his own rocks and potions and placed them on one side of the table. I removed my shirt, sat facing the rocks through five candles and the shaman began my cleansing.

With Alejandro and his son

With Alejandro and his son

Eggs are an important part of the shaman cleansing. Because they are partially hollow, the eggs can apparently absorb negative energies. Most people need only one egg to cleanse their energies, but some need multiple (a mutual friend of Clay’s and mine needed five). The shaman began with the egg as a sort of diagnostic, rubbing it around my head, neck, chest, arms, and back. As he did, he breathed deeply, often forcefully exhaling on my skin.

After the diagnostic, he contemplated his bottles and picked a green substance, which he rubbed on his hands and began applying like a lotion to my temples and neck. Some of it made it down to my shoulders and arms, but he definitely seemed to be concentrating his efforts on my head. He continued to exhale forcefully and would for the rest of the process.

The Shaman Hut

The Shaman Hut

He then again consulted his collection of rocks and potions and chose a large, green rock, which he rubbed along many of the same places on my head and neck. After replacing the rock, he began pushing different parts of me with both hands as he breathed in a sort of massage that wasn’t exactly relaxing, but did make me feel more focused.

He finished the process with a branch full of leaves, which he swept over me with flourishes and exhalations. After a final exhale, he hesitated for a few seconds and then explained that my head was “hot” and that the next morning, Alejandro would bathe me with cold water mixed with herbs and flowers. This apparently would push the heat from my head down to my toes and clean out of my body. Seemed like a solid idea to me.

A full shaman cleansing involves consuming the hallucinogenic jungle vine, ayahuasca. So that’s exactly what I did. The shaman handed me a cup and I drank it in one go. It was one of the most disgusting liquids I’ve ever consumed and he suggested chasing it with a shot of homemade liquor. I never thought I’d use moonshine as a chaser but that just shows you how terrible ayahuasca tastes.

The cold herbal bath

The cold herbal bath

Ayahuasca is not normally consumed recreationally – it is treated as a spiritual vehicle for self-discovery and guidance. Most of what I’d heard about ayahuasca sounded downright unpleasant – vomiting and diarrhea are common and the visions it induces are often difficult to deal with. Apparently the best way to use ayahuasca is to focus on something in your life that’s been troubling you and it will guide your thoughts into an illuminating vision.

I didn’t really do that. Once I could feel it kicking in (about half an hour after consumption), my thoughts became cluttered and quick, arriving ten to the second and departing just as quickly. I lay down and tried to control them but couldn’t and eventually gave in to the torrent of thinking.

Jack Receiving a Shaman Cleansing:

You’re probably hoping that I recount the insane visions that I experienced but I honestly didn’t have any. I’ve heard that with ayahuasca you’re meant to face your id, but my id remained elusive and instead I passed a strange night of hectic thinking and hearing phantom noises from outside the hut.

The next morning, I stumbled back to my hut and slept for a few hours. When I woke, I received my cold herbal bath and honestly felt pretty good. I smelled a little like garlic and flowers and later that day I was still picking flower petals off of random parts of my body, but overall I was refreshed.

Perhaps my favorite part of the process was seeing the shamans at work. They clearly believe deeply in what they do and enjoy helping others through spiritual challenges in their lives. Whatever your personal opinion of their beliefs, they are helping people and living what seems a more enlightened life than the average person. I’m glad I got the experience and maybe more glad that I had the experience without throwing up on myself.

(Find out how to have your own experience in Los Naranjos here)