Keeping an Ayahuasca journal
All the retreat centeres I checked out on during my research beforehand recommended to keep a journal during the stay. To me it made perfect sense, as recording my inner experiences had been part of my life at least throughout critical phases. So buying a nice journal and deciding to feed it everyday during my trip was a no-brainer for me. Being at the retreat center surrounded by a group of people, I learned that this approach wasn’t a no-brainer to everyone. Some people said that they wouldn’t see the benefit of writing as they never kept a jounrnal and that they would most propably not read it afterwards. Some just wrote down a couple of lines per day. Keepin a journal during an Ayahuasca process or not is clearly a matter of personal choice, but I was glad that I decided to do so.
For me, journaling during the retreat was not an optional or even fun thing to do. I made a commitment to myself to record all my experiences as detailed as I could. The process of writing something down already helps me to get more clarity on things and reflect on the topic more in-depth. However, sticking with my resolution wasn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes, especially after difficult ceremonies, I had to force myself to write things down in detail, because I didn’t want to face certain things again in the process of writing. On other days, I would have preferred to chill in the hammock instead of spending an hour on concentraded brain work. Looking backwards, I’m glad I went this extra mile, for the following reasons:
Turing „chaos“ into a narrative
Journaling helps to bring order into something that may not have any logical structure at all. What you experience with Ayahuasca can seem so arbitrary and chaotic, that you feel just overwhelmed and clueless even the day after. By journaling you turn the bits and pieces you remember into a narrative, so that the rational brain can process the content and make sense of it. While reflecting on the experience in written form, you will even stumble across things that you haven’t thought of before when just talking or thinking about the previous night.
Conserving the most vivid version of your story
When you get back home, all your friends will ask you about the Aya experience and you will tell the story over and over again. The more often you tell it, the more details you will leave out. The first time you tell it, it may still be as emotionally loaded and meaningful as you experienced it for yourself. But the more often you repeat the story, the more adjusted to a general audience it will be, leaving out the really private and really meaningful things. Over time you will realise that the censored story you tell becomes more present to yourself than the version you remembered right after ceremony. The experience wears off the more often you tell it. Having a journal at hand to dive into the most vivid version of your Ayahuasca story at any time you want to, will prevent you from simply forgeting it when facing everyday life again.
Supporting the integration process
The real work starts after the retreat. Ayahuasca may give you a lot of beautiful, impressive insights, but they need to be deployed to real life afterwards in order to have impact. During my first weeks after, I had many moments when I was glad to have the journal, because my perspectives on the themes and motives I had seen changed in retrospect. Being confronted with „real life“ again, I discovered new layers of meaning in the content and I was glad that I could go back to my journal and refresh my memories.
Extensive journaling might be my personal take on such an intense process and not everyone may find this important. However, one thing is for sure: The less you record of your experience, the more you will lose it. The unconscoius and physical part of the healing process will work nevertheless, but a lot of the messages your rational brain gets from la Madre will fade over time. So writing them down is the best thing you can do to keep the memories alive and continue working with the content for as long as you want to.