I’m writing to you from a stunning villa overlooking a serene beach in lush Costa Rica, but it’s not all play. My husband and I are here apprenticing to become providers of the African sacred medicine called iboga within the Bwiti tradition. This medicine granted us a healing miracle 2 years ago, though certainly not an easy one, which I detail in my intimate memoir, Heart Medicine: A True Love Story. After this experience with iboga, we were both inspired to learn how to help others with the medicine.
Being a budding iboga provider, I asked the seasoned providers in our community a lot of questions. I learned that these elements can help guests to have a profoundly healing and positive experience with the medicine:
• Cultivate clear and benevolent intentions.
• Be absolutely honest in all communication with your providers. This is not only ideal, but vital to a safe and fulfilling journey.
• Come with an open mind and heart, once you have carefully selected the right provider.
• Begin from a place of reverence for the medicine. This is how the medicine can offer its greatest gifts to you.
• Be open to discovering that the medicine is a living spirit, not just a physical substance to consume.
• Graciously receive the traditional customs that lay the groundwork for a strong and positive ceremony: Bwiti wisdom transmissions, fire ceremony, ritual elements, medicine music, shamanic healing practices, verbal guidance in the journey, etc. These elements are pleasant for many, though they may feel aesthetically strange or even slightly tedious for some guests. They are entirely essential for many reasons that might not be apparent to the uninitiated.
• Come of your own volition, rather than because of pressure from a loved one.
• Be accountable, in some way, for the offering needed for treatment, rather than having someone else take care of it. This can help people to value the experience.
• Engage fully with the process and the guidance. Some people mistakenly believe that sacred medicine works by simply popping a pill or drinking a brew, but there is nothing passive about it. Iboga, like all sacred medicines and spiritual practices, are entirely participatory.
• Remember that the healer is just a human being, albeit a skilled one. It’s not entirely up to the healer to “fix” a seeker. The healer is simply there to offer an opportunity and create a safe space, but the aspirant must walk through the door and do the inner work on their own.
• Stay for the full retreat time. There is a reason why retreats are designed to be a certain number of days—and a certain number of ceremonies. It takes time to unravel and disconnect from the rat-race. In addition, the first journey is just the detox or cleansing session, making way for the guidance and clarity that often shines through in subsequent journeys. Keep in mind that every journey can be radically different, and some are more challenging than others.
• Attend to your aftercare and general self-care. Follow through with new life changes that were prompted by the medicine. Begin or sustain supportive practices such as meditation, yoga, tai-chi, dance, music, or others. Surround yourself with a healthy community. It might also be helpful to find the right counselor.
• Enjoy some creative integration activities, or ways to reflect upon the experience, such as writing or art.
• Create “positive addictions.” These are healthy, consciously chosen sources of joy, play, and replenishment. In truth, these are forms of devotion, in that we pour our passionate energy into them.
May you enjoy the gift of this day and the gift of your life!
For additional tips to better your iboga experience, explore this blog post from the Iboga Wellness Center.