When it comes to ayahuasca, as well as many other powerful medicines, it is simply impossible to separate the benefit of ceremony from the benefit of the medicine itself, just as removing the practitioner from their role in holding a safe & sacred space for their patients to explore their inner worlds, as they all together present an invaluable union, completely necessary to the process of healing and personal growth, which can be found and achieved through consumption of the medicine in this sacred manner.
To remove one part from the experience, is to in part remove a piece of it's own spirit, reducing the sustainable potential of ayahuasca and possibly even creating harm, due to lack of expertise in these other realms. In this way, though some journalists would like describe ayahuasca as merely a drug, it is far from just the mere consumption of a substance, which alters the chemistry of the mind. Many not native to the Amazon, who make the choice to drink the medicine alone, without proper guidance or experience may be putting themselves and even others at risk, by opening doorways, which they know not how to close or create an insulated field to protect themselves and their immediate environment from spiritual entry. Those who are born into regions where this medicine is native, understand this, and hold great respect for the healers working on this path, and great caution before leaping to navigate these spaces on their own. For most, Ayahuasca presents to us a spirit, and in the beginning relies on a skilled practitioner, who through spiritual destiny, dedication and purification, develops an understanding, & acquire a sort of esoteric toolbelt for working in harmony with the plant spirits, and those of their ancestral spirit guides.
For many maestro curanderos, shamanic practioners and apprentices alike, working with Ayahuasca, they learn very clearly through an intimate relationship with the spirit of the medicine, the meaning, purposes and prolific uses of the rituals surrounding ceremony. In the beginning they may learn a ritual, but in many cases it may take years to understand the reasons and complex applications for each ritualistic exercise. This is because of the fact that each healer must develop his/her own intimate and very personal relationship with the medicine, and learn to use tools specifically attuned to his/her own spiritual gifts & lineages. Much of the power of these tools can not be fully learned in a classroom, through a conversation, or in a modern traditional sense. This goes far beyond ethnic upbringing, and deep into the soul's long journey to this moment. Through this relationship, one's true power in and out of ceremony is developed, and in the spirit of the medicine, is a process of development which continues to unfold throughout the course of ones's life in the practice.
Going to ceremony for a patient or participant, is much like going to a sanctuary a sacred temple, or a forest. It is a place that all are welcome, and all, no matter who they are or what their experience should feel unjudged. It is a place of quietness and a place of humility, where all will soon realize that they have their own work to do, and that none are immune to the trials of humanity, or better put, the trials of the living. In this place patients & participants are seen not for their position in society or the facade that they uphold, but for the pure and tender being that they are underneath. Under our skin, we are all children, and are all proned to the vulnerabilities of man. This puts each of us on an even playing field, and sees us each as spirits, possessing a unique access point to the univeral consciousness and divinity within all. We are not just bodies who happen to have spirits, but we are spirits, who just happen to have bodies. In this way...some elders in this life become seen as children in ceremony, and some children become seen as elders. It is a place that the illusions of the material world can be lifted, and respect can be shown for all. It is a place that a child can develop true forgiveness for an abusive parent, and a parent can develop true understanding of the nature of their child's angst. It is a place that bridges can be born, and walls can be turned to doorways.
A healers job in ceremony can vary greatly, depending on the patient or attendants present in the space, but even with that said, there are many rituals, which connect the dots of all conditions. The healer working in ceremony becomes an intermediary between the patient and the world of the spirits. Helping to develop a field of protection, transmuting negative energies as they are released by the patient, and calling on the spirits of Ayahuasca, their ancestral guides, and the spirits of the plants of the Amazon to help purify the patient, as they do their own work of confronting and exploring their inner dimensions. What happens behind the doors of ceremony, is something that can never truly be explained in words, but something that can truly change a person from the inside out, and which results can possibly be felt, rippling outward for an eternity.