Sundering & Succor at Soltara: My First Ayahuasca Experience

At the very tail end of 2019, Amanda and I traveled to Costa Rica for a most unusual retreat.

Five days spent in the Costa Rican jungle, basking in Central American sun and eating semi-exotic fruits poolside.

Three consecutive nights spent in ceremony with the Grandmother: the plant medicine ayahuasca, a tea brewed from (among other things) the vine and leaves of Banisteriopsis caapi.

Called Uní by the Shipibo—the indigenous people of the Ucayali River region in what is now Peru, who serve as both purveyors of the entheogenic melange and custodians of the traditions and culture of the medicine—ayahuasca has been in use since at least 1000 AD.

Suppressed for generations by the wholesale slaughter and cultural subjugation concomitant with colonization, Ayahuasca and its people faded into the background of history for long years.

But, as has been said by probably nobody, you can’t keep a good plant down.

As we crest the rise in the current psychedelic renaissance, the Grandmother now enjoys her place as one of the crown jewels in the entheogenic landscape, calling out to those craving understanding, expansion, and healing.

In this resurgence, through her stewards at Soltara—and, one assumes, some not inconsiderable algorithmic targeting—, did Mama Aya extend the tendrils of her vines out to Amanda and me.

And so it was I found myself seated in a traditional malloca, swallowing an acrid mixture of fermented plant matter and waiting for the Medicine to speak my name, even as two shamans1 sang ancient songs2 in languages I do not know.

Aya is known to be a harsh mistress, in the way she forces you to purge. In that respect, I was fine—if “fine” means seeing geometric patterns kaleidoscoping behind your eyelids while coming to awareness that your lifelong resistance to authority figures stems from resentment for your parents never having been there for you, that is.

In other respects, I was not fine. I was rent and resown.

Three nights I sat. Three nights they sang. Three nights I learned.

  • The first night I was shown my weakness.
  • The second night I was shown my strength.
  • The third night I was shown the truth.

After integration and re-integration, Amanda and I recorded a two-hour-long conversation for her podcast, Bucci Radio, split into two episodes.

Our Ayahuasca Experience – Part 1

In the first episode, we set the context for what brought us to Soltara in the first place, covering everything from out introduction to plant medicines to our experiences with substances leading up to this point.

Listen to it here:

Or click this link to check it out on iTunes.

Our Ayahuasca Experience – Part 2

In the second episode, we dive into our (respective) experience in full, which includes vivid descriptions of the Ceremony itself, and all the weird, wacky shit that happens when you take a millennia-old plant drug in the jungle.

Listen to it here:

Or click this link to check it out on iTunes.

More Reflection on Ayahuasca

Having now had some time to process all I learned, I’m grateful for the experience and all it gave me.

Most especially, I’m able to see how my relationship to authority has been somewhat problematic for most of my life, and I have now begun to heal it.

I am not in the habit of evangelizing when it comes to substances, so I’m not going to endorse the use of Aya (or any other entheogen). If you’re on the fence, stay there until you’re ready.

That said, it’s all been highly beneficial to me and most I know–so, when you are ready, I’d have to say, it’s hard to imagine a better place to have this experience than Soltara.





  1. In the Shipibo tradition, these ceremonial guides are referred to as Maestros and Maestras; my use of the word shaman, in this context, is as an umbrella term most will find more familiar.
  2. called icaros.
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About The Author
John Romaniello is an author, consultant, and coach who helps people and brands find their voice through writing. He's published hundreds of articles, dozens of courses, and one New York Times bestselling book. Might wanna check out his Instagram, he's pretty easy on the eyes.