After a night of food poisonning and an 8 hours bus ride to San Jose, I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game when I arrived in Cartago, 40 minutes outside of the capital. Almost 2 months of backpacking leaves any traveller wary, and I surely looked only slightly more bedraggled than I felt when Andres offered to host me for a few days at what would be the final destination of my 8 months away from home. Travelling on my own, especially as a young woman, had presented itself with challenges that had obligated me to reassess my naivety — and indeed I would go so far as to say my previously unadultered faith in humanity. My time with Andres was to me my final leap of faith based on a gut feeling that the good, the bad and the ugly of my adventure had all happened for a reason which is the experience that I would like to share here.

      I wasn’t sure what to expect as we drove up the unpaved, winding road to the picturesque house on the hill where the retreat was to take place. What I did find surpassed anything I may have envisioned. Nestled within proximity to a bustling town yet with an air of being comfortably removed from civilization is a spacious and cozy home surrounded by nature. It overlooks the typical tico territory — alive with vegetation amidst which one can only feel peace.
      There is no wifi here — a place to disconnect in order to reconnect with what matters. As your basic millenial, I cannot pretend that this did not irk me at first. But the few times I felt I needed to contact someone Andres made his hotspot available to me, and in fact I found that I was grateful to be out of reach of outside anxieties during the days that surrounded my ceremony. The rest of my time, I discovered interests I am too distracted by YouTube videos to indulge in regularly. And how could one succomb to boredom in a place where the rolling clouds constantly transform the environment, so that one finds pure joy simply in the art of being?
       I was allocated a spacious, clean room with fresh sheets, towels and soap. Everything I could have needed was provided — fresh food, laundry facilities, fascinating books, and of course the charming company of Andres himself. I can honestly say that Andres is the kindest, gentlest, most respectful person I have ever met. I knew I could reveal to him my darkest secrets and expect nothing but guidance and never judgement. He is soft spoken, intuitive and has a wonderful energy that permeates the house, the garden, the space of the ceremony. One need not be spiritual to see his beautiful aura. I cherished every moment I had with him, from our fits of laughter as we shared stories whilst sitting on the terrace, to the silent moments we spent reading our books on the two sofas in the living room.
     I came to learn from him about the plants of a region of the world hereto foreign to me. I left having learned just how powerful opening your heart and soul to a stranger can be. Andres will forever be a part of who I am, and even as I now sit in front of a laptop in France, surrounded by the family that has known me since I was born, I continue to integrate what he taught me not through words but through action. How can I be more considerate today? How can I make everyone around me comfortable? In other words, how may I be more like Andres? To me, Andres became more than a teacher and a guide. He became my mentor.
        It must come as no surprise that those who had come before me often speak to Andres during their ayahuasca trip. The level of comfort I felt around him made me totally relaxed about the upcoming ceremony despite the certain apprehension of my friends and any anxiety I may have had before meeting him. I knew it would not be easy nor pleasant and I was glad that he did not romanticize this.
      I felt ready when the time came and I was grateful that it would just be us two. It was of course a bonus that Andres cooks delicious, clean food and knows how to read the tarot cards. He is interested on the subjects of psychoanalysis, numerology, indigenous spirituality as well as Western religions, and shamanism. I have total faith in his professionalism and I couldn’t imagine a more qualified and experienced, peaceful presence to guide those, like me, whose intentions leads them to seek the plant’s medicinal power. Andres takes all these practices very seriously without taking himself too seriously — in my opinion, the perfect combination. He remains very grounded, for example he does not read the future with the Tarot cards, rather he uses them to help one open up about things they are going through, using the symbolic imagery, and says he can interpret them based only on what he knows. He remained completely cautious and responsible, including keeping in contact with his shaman regularly, whose intuition made her preternaturally privy to everything that was happening at the retreat.
      Andres is very educated about the ayahuasca plant. He recounted his experience and those he has guided, emphasizing how it is different for everyone so I didn’t have too much of a preconceived and perhaps mistaken presumption of the effects. His advice was to not resist the plant and what it was trying to show me, and, in the moment he handed me the drink, to let go of any expectations or beliefs I had about it beforehand. My mind often returned to his advice during my trip, and i was very helpful to remind myself to let go. He encouraged me to have an intention when taking it, which I did. In Southeast Asia, where I’d travelled the previously year, learning about Buddhism, I felt I had learned to live. Here, I intended to learn to die.
The day of the ceremony, Andres invited me to relax and rest in preparation for what would be an evening to remember. I spent the day reading Terrance McKenna books. I felt I was in exactly the right place for me and that this was my time. I played around with the alternative tarot cards I found. Following the instructions I pulled out: “golden opportunity” ; “expect a miracle” ; “purification of the body and mind.” Things could not have felt more perfect.
       At 6:30pm, I entered the room where I was to drink the sacred medicine. It was lit with a single candle in the middle of the room. In the back, instruments and music speakers were set up. I recognized my space as the mat with a duvet an pillow on the right hand side. Next to it was the bucket I was bound to vomit in — the part I was not looking forward to and faintly in denial about.
     Andres left me about half an hour to relax and meditate, taking in the space and making myself comfortable before coming himself. The ceremony was beautiful and simple. It made me feel that it would be impossible for me to have a bad trip as I saw the man I had grown to trust and love purify the space with incense in all four corners. He touched my brow with oils, gently played the drums, and smoked a pipe. For me, it took three cups of the substance to start being effected which is quite rare. When it finally did hit me, as I felt my spirit leave my body, my last recollection was Andres blowing three puffs of smoke on my face. I felt it as a blessing.
      My trip was a good one. It was not the easiest thing I have ever done. But I did not suffer. I knew about god from previous spiritual experiences. Ayahuasca allowed me to communicate with god directly. I felt affirmed in what i was doing right in my life and have a newfound confidence that I am on the right path for me. I feel at peace with my past and my future. Already an avid aficionado of the arts and sciences, i have a new appreciation and admiration for both, and most especially for what I consider to be their dialectical relationship. I know that the universe loves me, and I have every reason to love the universe right back. I know that if I respect the plants, they will respect me and this first trip marks only the beginning of my journey.
     Ayahuasca is a complete experience that heals your body, mind and soul, rebalancing your chakras and putting you in touch with the divine in a manner that is life changing, and I dare say life enhancing. Anyone who has had such an experience will know that the plant speaks to you in the language to end all languages, and that therefore there are no true words that will ever allow me to portray my experience accurately.
      I therefore turn to the words of the great Nietzsche who said, “and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” For those, like myself, who were not blessed with that innate joie de vivre that allows some of us to be born dancing, ayahuasca teaches you to hear the music. By this, I do not mean that it will allow you to have a fun night. In fact, I imagine one is as likely to cry as to laugh during the mystical evening. What I mean by this is that ayhuasca may be the trigger that allows one to have a dramatic change in consciousness so that now — and perhaps forever — one may hear the music everyday. I haven’t stopped dancing and I don’t plan to. I intend to enjoy every moment of this laugh, and possibly the next one too!
     And thus, I like to think ayahuasca is a gift fromt the gods, and that this is their message.
-Elisabeth Lafaye




Kuyay, The Magical Healer

It’s been a while since my first ceremony using the master plant Ayahuasca, about 4 years, and I’m still feeling fortunate,  because of the fact that I found such an incredible lady shaman, Kuyay, here in my country, Costa Rica.

Kuyay doesn’t like the word shaman because this word can be misunderstood. Sometimes people associate it to bad things like sorcery or ancient magic. She prefers to be referred to as a spiritual guide or something more proper.

Costa Rica was in Kuyay’s destiny, she was in other Central America countries but it seems that she finally chose Costa Rica as the place to stay along with her family. From the first moment that I read about the Ayahuasca I knew that it was my call, that I needed to look for it no matter what.

The House of Light

Getting to Kuyay’s house, where the Ayahuasca retreat takes place, is itself a memorable journey: her house is located at high altitude, and surrounded by lots of green mountains; yet, the best part of the trip is when you arrive.

Kuyay receives guests with a warm hug and a trusty smile. Feeling the vibe of this place is astounding, it feels so balanced with the nature, so natural, so quiet.

They grow food, use water from a natural fountain, and also have a special place were the ceremonies take place which I personally call “La Casa de la Luz”, which has been renewed. The actual name of the area is  “El Guarco” or  “El Cerro de la Muerte”.

Grandmother Ayahuasca can specially appear in a vision in the form of a snake, a women, or like in one of my visions, some sort of nurse snake that was injecting me with probably a magical substance not from this dimension. You can sometimes feel it, like a huge snake rolling around your body.

Seeing “La Casa de Luz” in my head also reminds me that Kuyay is not a big fan of dark or mixed ceremonies. She likes to stay with the light but what does this really mean, regarding ceremonies, she doesn’t like bad energy to accumulate

What is a “light ceremony”?

Kuyay states that it’s not necessary to make the people see horrible things because such visions don’t help much. Kuyay only invites light and white energy to visit during her ceremonies, still with very profound effects.

But there’s a thing: Ayahuasca ceremonies are like open portals for “beings” from other dimensions and sometimes a dark one can get through.

Kuyay is an expert on handling these types of energies that can take control of your Ayahuasca experience. I’d say they can even get into your mind and show you a point of no return, something that you were not supposed to see, which can traumatize you.

I also think that this type of situations can be the result of a weak participant attitude, or a weak preparation, or both. These situations are unlikely since Kuyay interviews every potential ceremony participant before partaking of the sacred vine–not everyone is suitable to drink the vine of the death.

Yes, I think that a negative participant or someone that has no respect at all can trigger dark energies to enter. That’s one of the reasons why Kuyay always asks us to come early and talk to each other, maybe smoke a “mapacho” to relax and bless yourself, or a group meditation. Getting along with other ceremony participate is basic.

The Vine of Death

It’s called “the vine of the death” because old Peruvian traditions say that when you drink ayahuasca, you visit the world of “death”. It’s the ayahuasca vine that allows you to enter these worlds, without losing your spirit, they say.

When you come to meet the grandmother ayahuasca it has to be with full respect and conscience.

It is important that we feel comfortable with the rest of the people, they will be with you all night and you will feel their spirits sometimes, just like when you feel the air coming from a ventilator, I know it’s a silly comparison, but you can find a more accurate one, regarding on how energy feels in many of the books that Carlos Castaneda has written. If they’re sad, happy, worried, stressed, angry, depressed, you will feel them and they will be able to feel you too. Emotions can be contagious and one has to focus on the internal voyage.

Kuyay is a responsible shaman, she always asks about other medicines that can affect the spiritual journey, special situations that you might be having, like duodenal diseases, respiratory issues, and heart problems. There are other special situations which may exclude you to participate, besides diseases.

Kuyay knows which one they are and it’s very important to be honest regarding such a huge responsibility, because the one that is more responsible for you, is yourself. You will be putting yourself in a giant risk if you are not suitable for ayahuasca, but you insist.

Everything is very symbolic in the ceremonies, Kuyay will call you and you have to come to her, and do a forehead union between you and her, while she is whispering and putting your hands on the ayahuasca cup, she blesses it with a very particular icaro and then you drink it.

Kuyay and her helpers will be checking on your status once in a while during the “elevacion”, especially asking if everything is good, whispering into your ear, touching specific parts of your body to release blocked energy, blessing you with Mapacho and Palo Santo. She will sing beautiful icaros if required (just like hearing angels sing) and also checking on how much more Ayahuasca you need.

Kuyay always asks: “Do you need more medicine?”

And, depending on the answer she might decide.

She doesn’t like rushing anything. If she needs to wait another half hour to make sure you need more ayahuasca, she will do it. She will not give you more ayahuasca if you want to be super high, everything is a process.

This is something very positive that I notice from her, Kuyay really takes care of the people as if she was taking care of herself. She will teach you anything you need to be to know, I can proudly say that she was my first meditation teacher also (you see why shaman is not a correct word).I didn’t have any visions in my first ceremony and it was not necessary. A part of me wanted to see the whole universe in those visions but when I ask her for the third row she asked me why, and I said that because I haven’t had any visions, which to she answered that, not every time one needs to see visions. She saved me from myself maybe, too much ayahuasca could be difficult to handle for someone that, at that time, was not even in touch with meditation.

“To a distant dream, you are taking me, ayahuasca of my soul, to show me the mysteries of life.”

Once, she slept in La Casa de la Luz, to check on us and to be with us, it was really intense that night, normally ceremonies are from 8 to 12 and then we sleep and she leaves participants with the helpers, but this ceremony extended for some more hours.

I remember that was the only ceremony where I was required to go to the bathroom to attend a “second-grade” situation. It’s something totally normal but had never happened to me until that one. It was a really powerful mixture and obviously, she offered us the opportunity to try it, because we were not in our first ceremony. My stomach suffered really bad that night, hurt until the next day, but I’m sure it was really worth it. My body was deeply cleansed that night, I felt it.


“Elevado”–that’s the word Kuyay uses to refer to the ayahuasca visionary state. Really accurate since “elevado” means high, and your spirit is vibrating at higher frequencies, it’s a state that can be described in many ways, Don Juan Matus, says that in ancient Mexican sorcery, it was called “ver” or ¨see¨ if we translate it into English. When you are “elevado” the least you can expect is to vomit, the purge

Being “elevado” means, sometimes, see what your eyes are seeing. You enter in some sort of outside perspective, more like universal, and you can even feel that connection if you’re lucky. When you feel it, it’s another step of being “elevado”, it can also be called “The Universal Consciousness”, the connection to God.

If you stop to think that mind and spirit are the same things, one can say that mind is not only in the body, maybe not even close, and can vibrate to higher states of consciousness, or what if it’s already there all the time but we were made to not see it?

The mind can be interdimensional, and Ayahuasca gives you the ability to prove that.

It is nice to know also for participants, that Kuyay has direct contact with a medical center in Argentina where they use Ayahuasca with the help of other physicians, so we can be sure that she knows everything about possible medical complications and specific situations. She is regularly checking with them, regarding anything medical.

Once I was taking some antibiotics one week before the ceremony; I felt the need to let her know–to which she checked with the center, and then we were confident I could proceed with the ceremonies. We are very secure in the medical part. Kuyay’s sister, Jessica, also an ayahuascera, is one of the people in charge of the ceremonies in the city of Rosario, Argentina.

Jessica came to Costa Rica to inaugurate “La Casa de la Luz” and bless it; after that Kuyay was able to make open ceremonies here–respecting ancient Ayahuasca traditions.

Kuyay administers Ayahuasca healing ceremonies in Costa Rica. Participants come from all over the world. If you’re considering to come, I can serve as a witness that the metamorphosis experienced after going to visit Kuyay and grandmother Ayahuasca–it was nothing less than profound.

Thank you Kuyay and Howard, for making all this possible.

“You carry my soul to the deepest places in the universe, you are curing me, you are illuminating me, you are loving me.”


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