Ayahuasca Diet: The "First Matter" of Alchemy
Updated: Apr 8, 2019
Hello! In today’s blog post I would like to share with you some of what I’ve been learning about the “Ayahuasca Diet,” or “Dieta” as it is known among many indigenous folk healers of South America. This blog will include three sections: The philosophy behind the Dieta; examples of ways to practice it; and its connection to Alchemy.
The philosophy behind the Dieta
At the outset, I would like to suggest that if you are reading this post and are interested in refining your diet (or learning about refining your diet) to prepare for and Ayahuasca ceremony, then you are already on your trip. That is to say, whether you have actually enrolled in an ayahuasca retreat or not, whether you even know how to or not, the intention that brought you here has already taken you from “precontemplation” about such an experience into “contemplation.” This is because every effort to hone one’s inner chemistry is a step towards “wholeness,” “perfection,” or “One Mind,” whether the steps that follow such effort end up being giant leaps (such as a psychedelic trip) or a more gradual path.
We have recently, here in the Western World, been learning that traditional Shamanic uses of ayahuasca utilize the Dieta as a powerful tool to rid the body of blockages that can get in the way of the plant psychoactively transforming your consciousness. The basic idea is to cut almost all acidic foods such that the PH balance of the individual moves more towards 0, or more perfectly balanced between acidity and alkaline. (Much of our typical diet is actually quite acidic.) A few other aspects of the Dieta are behavioral and can further help us loosen ourselves from cultural influences, thus being more open to being guided by the natural world. (As an aside, I surmise that the Dieta can open oneself up to the guidance of other plants and substances besides Ayahuasca.)
Following Dieta from 3 days to two weeks prior to and after ingesting the ayahuasca brew can also help reduce or eliminate purging (vomiting), and improve integration of the experience into your everyday life. Lastly in this section on the philosophy behind Dieta, I want to point out that simplifying one’s diet and lifestyle in the way described below, if only for a few days, also opens one up to one’s own natural intuitive capacities, including but not limited to: precognitive dreams, syncronicities, and clarity about issues long-held to be confusing for you. And along these lines, in the spirit of Harm Reduction principles, I want to encourage you to “just do your best”: maybe setting a “soft date” to start trying Dieta, and then approximating the guidelines more rigorously a few days later, instead of making in an “all-or-nothing situation”-- especially if you have a lot of the habits that are to be avoided. A quick example of “do your best” is that if you try to go too “hardcore” at first, your body might be in shock and, for example, get heat exhaustion if you are in the sun without enough salt in your body to retain hydration. So the core principle here is “Listen to your body, and go slow.”
First let me say that many types of pharmacological medication, particularly those often prescribed for mental health symptoms such as Depression, Anxiety, Psychosis (or Stress-induced, Adjustment-induced, or Trauma-induced depression, anxiety and psychosis) are COUNTER-INDICATED with most if not all psychedelics. This includes but is not limited to SSRI’s and MAOI’s. I put this out front so that you can do your own research if you are considering “tapering off” of your psychiatric medication prior to a psychedelic experience... And if you need help finding a psychiatrist who practices harm reduction and will actually talk to you about your intention without judging you, please let me know and I’ll do my best to make that referral. That being said, I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist and cannot specifically recommend how to do this, but I am aware that the counter indication can range from not feeling any effects to having neurological problems.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, the rest of this section focuses on how to adjust your diet and assumes that you don’t take any pharmacological medications. Most stuff you’ll see online starts with the “Don’t’s”, but let’s start here instead with the “Do’s”:
DO eat plantain, light amounts of chicken and delicate fish (not heavy fish "steaks" like tuna, swordfish, salmon, and mahi-mahi), most fruits and fresh or cooked vegetables, rice, oatmeal, quinoa, soaked or roasted nuts and nut butters, small amounts of honey or agave are ok, as are small amounts of a variety of oils (olive, coconut, walnut, ghee), particularly when starting out. Green tea is good, eggs are good, and small amounts of cheese or yogurt/ kefir, especially at the beginning. Very good are legumes, beans, peas, fresh fruit juices, and pure coconut water.
DON’T eat or consume the following (This list is constructed in chronological order, i.e. what you should start avoiding first is listed first, and closer to the end are things to make sure you cut out by a few days prior to your ceremony.):
Avoid heavy meat (including all red meat and pork), marijuana and other “recreational” drugs, most caffeine and honey, all alcohol, spicy foods, fermented food, non-fresh (canned or preserved) meat/ fish, brewers yeast, most sugar and salt, all processed foods (especially containing any ingredients that are not from whole foods - read the labels), icy or frozen food or drinks, most citrus, raw nuts, fried food and excessive oil. As best as possible, stick to this diet after the ayahuasca experience as well, from a few days (e.g. fermented food) to a few weeks (even up to a month--especially heavy and red meats, caffeine, honey, alcohol, and recreational drugs) .
A word about sexual activity: It is recommended to have no sexual contact two weeks prior to and after ayahuasca, and no ejaculation 2-3 days prior and after. Again, this is to purify, build and channel your own energy and not get too entwined with others’ energetic or karmic “chords.” Other traditional admonitions are against excessive exposure to sun, rain, fire, strong odors, and gossip.
If you are not going to use Ayahuasca but are considering this Dieta, you might consider planning a personal retreat or “Vision Quest” (or as I call it, Youcation) after trying it out for a week, in order to translate your efforts in to some real inner journeying to answer specific questions or open up to new inspirations.
Dieta as “First Matter” of Alchemy
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! If you skipped directly to this part, that’s fine too. What is described above is one of the best ways, in my personal experience, to get the physical body in touch with its own inner guidance system and natural healing capacities.
Thus, honing the “system” (body, nerves, mind and spirit) in this way activates your “Beginner’s Mind,” your capacity to see things around you with fresh eyes. Remember, you are not punishing yourself! You are experimenting with new and different ways of being. We all start from different places and experiences, so this is about your own unique inner journey.
Dennis William Hauck writes about the inner journey of purification undertaken by medieval alchemists as they try to synchronize with their experiments in his compelling book, “Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy” (2004, Citadel Press Books/ Kensington Publishing Corp., NY). A key to this process is the attempt to isolate "First Matter." This ancient Alchemical concept of "First Matter" is hard to describe or define; it has alternately been called Chi, Tao, One Thing, Universal Soul, Light of Nature, Cosmic Awareness, Waking Dreaming, Yin-Yang, Double Helix, or Snake eating its tail. What was agreed upon by all alchemists was that only by isolating First Matter could you achieve the Philosopher's Stone, which Hauck describes as “the perfected essence of matter that embodied the deepest secrets of transformation” (p 22). This is why I say that if you only attempt the Dieta and do nothing else, you will have already entered into the path of Nondual Awareness, also called the Transpersonal Dimension, a Dreamscape, or, simply, Tripspace.
Below, I am going to quote Dennis William Hauck describing First Matter on page one of his text. See if you think the outcomes of practicing Dieta can be interpreted as the thing he is talking about:
The writhing blob of matter was known as First Matter and it represented months of hard work roasting, pulverizing, dissolving and breaking down materials said to contain the mysterious essence. This primordial, chaotic mass was the goal of all alchemists and they believed that once they had isolated enough First Matter, they could purify it and produce the magical Sorcerer’s Stone that would in turn perfect anything. Of course, just how to accumulate and purify the First Matter was the greatest secret in alchemy.
Here’s my advice about Dieta: Play with it, experiment with it, have fun with it, and see what comes from it. See for yourself if you get new perspectives and insights, or new sensations and awareness. And as always, listen to your body.
-Jeremy W Rhoades
April 7, 2019