Lecture Notes: After Test 2: Guest Speaker: Paula Rayo

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Guest Speaker Paula Rayo: "Understanding Psychedelics through my Ayahuasca Experience and Research." The following are some notes from Paula of what she said in class:

"The existential vacuum is an inner void wherein the inflicted individual feels a lack of meaning and purpose in life. The opposite is existential meaning, wherein life is inherently meaningful and fulfilling. My research question was to determine whether participating in ayahuasca ceremonies could help people overcome the existential vacuum.

"Ayahuasca is plant medicine from the Amazon rainforest, which has psychoactive ingredients. According to indigenous tradition, ayahuasca is drunk to access the spiritual realms. Because the ayahuasca experience can be so intense, it should only be used ritualistically in the context of indigenous practices. These practices have been passed down from generation to generation within indigenous communities. The practice is called ayahuasca shamanism.

"A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in the world of good and evil spirits. The purpose of a shaman during an ayahuasca ceremony is to guide participants’ experiences with their songs, which are called icaros. Icaros are used for different purposes, such as to clean the space where a ceremony is held, to protect participants from certain spirits, to clean out a participant, and to intensify or reduce the effects of ayahuasca. Shamans diet the plants to receive the icaros and it is said that the songs are actually coming from the plants, which are channelled through the shaman.

"In my study I found that participating in these ceremonies does help people increase in existential meaning."

Ayahuasca "opens up you, all of your senses magnified." The experience is "'mind manifesting' becuase you directly see the power of your mind being able to direct energy. . . ." But "traditionally, only the shaman would drink ayahuasca. It normally takes years of training the mind to become a shaman, but now all of a sudden anyone can drink it because ayahuasca is big business in the south. . . . You do not need psychedelics to understand the power of your mind, there are many other practicies you can use that will slowly reveal this to you."

You can see the video that Paula showed in class here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuJqUvBj4rE and read Paula's thesis here: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1040&context=psychK_uht.