In the last decade the plant Ayahuasca gained notoriety for its powers, but also concerns about the effects of its consumption. This week we talked with Carlos Tanner, director of the Ayahuasca Foundation, an organization created in 2009 that offers retreats and has a research center dedicated to know more about the plant and the positive effects it has. Check out our interview with Carlos Tanner below.
Please present yourself to our audience
My name is Carlos Tanner and I am the director of the Ayahuasca Foundation. I grew up in New England and graduated from the University of Massachusetts with degrees in Art and Philosophy. I first visited Peru as a tourist in 2000 and fell in love with the culture there, vowing to return to explore the Amazon rainforest and experience ayahuasca in its native setting. I returned to Peru in 2003 to attend my first ceremonies with the curandero don Juan Tangoa outside of Iquitos. Not only did I achieve tremendous healing, I was also invited to apprentice with don Juan, so in January of 2004 I moved to Iquitos where I lived and studied with don Juan for four years.
In 2008, I moved into my own apartment, met the woman I would marry, and began the process to set up the Ayahuasca Foundation, which became a registered non-profit in 2009. Since then, we have offered over one hundred retreats and nearly fifty courses, sharing the wisdom of the Shipibo healing tradition.
In 2017, we began hosting research funded by the British Medical Research Council which was published in June of 2021. That research demonstrated the amazing results of treatment with the ayahuasca plant medicine tradition in its native setting. In 2022, we’ll be continuing the stage II study along with our retreat programs and educational courses.
Can you explain to us what are the powers of Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca has a unique ability to reduce sensory gating which allows more sensory information into our consciousness, essentially amplifying perception and awareness. This increase in sensory perception allows us to see beyond the visible spectrum, hear beyond the audible spectrum, and perceive more of our inner and outer environments than the normal limits of our biology would allow. Of course, the hyper-sensitive state can be disorienting, which is why ayahuasca is always consumed in a ceremony setting.
The ceremony provides a safe space to explore the realms of perception that are normally inaccessible, what are often referred to as dimensions. The potential for insight and growth is greatly enhanced when experiencing a hyper-sensitive state in a safe setting. It is common to see and communicate with spirits that reflect light beyond the visible spectrum, as well as to perceive more clearly our internal processes, mental, emotional, and physical processes that have contributed to our well being, for better or worse.
By becoming conscious of an amplified set of sensory information, our realities can literally be changed over the course of a ceremony. By replacing previously held truths that were detrimental to our well being with more accurate and beneficial truths, the reality of our identity, self perception, and health can be dramatically transformed. When this process is conducted in ceremonies led by experienced and compassionate healers, the transformation can be incredibly powerful, long lasting, and in some cases, life saving.
Ayahuasca became more popular in the last decade. Do you believe that was a positive thing or there were negative aspects you had to deal with?
From my perspective, ayahuasca is not just a plant or a medicine, but a very wise and powerful conscious being. This conscious being seems to have a plan, and while it is certainly beyond me to understand it, if I had to guess I’d say that it has something to do with returning the Earth to balance by bringing the consciousness of human kind back into alignment. For countless generations, humankind was forever kept in harmony with nature through the use of psychotropic plant medicines like ayahuasca, taken in shamanic ceremonies within a spirit-centered, non-material cultural paradigm.
It has only been the last few generations that abandoned or prohibited these ancestral shamanic practices and replaced the non-material spiritual paradigm with the current material-centered physical paradigm of modern human culture. Thankfully, there are still some ancestral cultural traditions still intact, like within the indigenous communities of the Amazon rainforest.
My view of why ayahuasca has become so popular is because humans intuitively feel that our physical reality is not all there is and we yearn to reconnect with nature and understand what our ancestors all knew, that we are spirits all connected to a greater whole the same way the trillions of cells in our body are all connected to each of us, or how the trillions of atoms are all connected to each cell. I definitely feel that ayahuasca and the entire psychedelic medicine movement is a positive thing. It may be one of the most positive things to ever happen to modern culture.
Do you believe that a retreat like yours and the experience you help to provide is for everyone?
No. I don’t believe that anything is for everyone. Everyone operates according to their beliefs and perceptions of truth, so we should always choose the paths we take based on what feels like the best step forward. Obviously, if a person feels that indigenous people are primitive and intellectually inferior to them, chances are they will not trust that indigenous plant medicines like ayahuasca will work.
If someone feels that any substance that alters consciousness is detrimental to one’s health, they too will most likely not receive benefit from ayahuasca or other psychedelic medicines.
Conversely, if someone feels that the pharmaceutical companies don’t care at all about people’s well being and are much more concerned with making money that healing people’s health issues, that they would most likely not choose pharmaceutical medications and might prefer natural plant medicines. If someone respects their ancestral traditions and the wisdom of their elders, they too would most likely choose the path of plant medicines and the ancestral paradigm.
Whatever personal reality a person operates in will always dictate their perspective and how they proceed. I do feel that the public perception about psychedelics is changing rapidly, however, so perhaps we will see a psychedelic renaissance where everyone feels they should try it at least once in their lifetime.
All of the major religions of today were developed from shamanic traditions centered around psychotropic plant medicines, so I am hopeful that by returning to the roots of our ancestral wisdom, humankind can regain health and harmony and reconnect with the greater whole of nature and the Earth.
Can you tell us more about your retreats and programs?
Our centers are located in the Amazon rainforest outside of Iquitos, Peru. We have a retreat & research center where we offer ten and eighteen day retreats as well as four week courses, and also a plant medicine school where we offer a special eight week initiation course. All of our programs are led by authentic Shipibo curanderos who are assisted by apprentices who help to translate and guide the program participants.
All of our programs are centered around the ayahuasca ceremonies but also include a great number of additional plant medicine treatments. For example, our ten day retreat has five ayahuasca ceremonies, every other day, but also includes a digestive system cleanse, a central nervous system cleanse, a respiratory system cleanse, a lot of negative energy cleanses in the form of vapor baths and smoke baths, remedies to improve circulation, mental acuity, sensitivity, and immune response, and plant baths to attract positive energies.
The retreats also include complimentary practices led by the facilitators like meditation, yoga, reiki, epigenetic reprogramming, breathwork, and counseling. Research looking at treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain is conducted during the retreats. Our initiation courses are a unique a special opportunity to study the Shipibo ayahuasca plant medicine tradition in an authentic setting.
These courses are very comprehensive and involve plant dietas with powerful plant teachers, as well as numerous lessons on ceremony procedures, icaros, treatments, and navigation. We strive to offer the optimal programs possible in the time we have.
Peru is a magical place with a deep and diverse history and connection with many cultures and ethnicities. What can people expect when they come to your country?
It is true that Peru is home to so many distinct cultures. Where our centers are located in the Amazon, the culture there is completely isolated, as there are no roads connecting Iquitos to the rest of the world.
For this reason, it is a very unique place. However, being in the jungle is completely different than being in Iquitos, which is a city of nearly half a million people. The Amazon rainforest is enormous and its power can be felt in every moment.
The people who live at or around our centers and such genuine souls and spending time with them is a big part of the programs we offer. Being immersed in a culture and cultural paradigm that views nature as the great provider, who have so much gratitude for nature and for the plants and animals, serves as an important reminder to us all that we, too, are a part of nature.
We are connected, and nature continues to provide for us. So people visiting Peru can expect to feel that special connection to nature, that immense gratitude for the plants and animals, that intense power of the rainforest. It is truly remarkable.