by, Elizabeth Bast, Cofounder of SoulCentro
*Iboga-inspired art by Chor Boogie Nima Gnyangou
Iboga is known as the ultimate “mind medicine” by many people who have experienced multiple psychedelic sacred earth medicines. Iboga will “throw on the floodlights” in our psychic basement and then excavate the contents like nothing else, revealing exactly how we’ve been using our minds on the unconscious, conscious, and semi-conscious levels.
Our trauma responses, automatic habits, and limiting beliefs are revealed in greater detail. Additionally, we will know the true impact these mechanisms have on our mind, body, soul, creativity, relationships, and happiness.
Just as our body purges, so does our mind. “It must come up to come out.” Many people experience what we call the “mind purge” in their Iboga journey, which can present as thousands of thoughts, images, and concepts being seen in rapid succession. What comes after Iboga, just as when we clean out the basement and the attic, is greater spaciousness, perspective, peace, and fertile possibility for new creation.
Iboga and Bwiti offer a profound and unique opportunity to heal and optimize our relationship to our mind. Beyond mental health is mental art.
*This list is not meant to be a protocol for a DIY treatment. Iboga should only be taken with a qualified therapeutic guide. As one indigenous Bwiti friend said: “Taking Iboga without a qualified guide is like driving while blindfolded.” Additionally, Iboga treatments require comprehensive medical screening and 24/7 medical support.
Here are our top essential tips for preparing the mind for Iboga:
*Iboga-inspired digital collage by Chor Boogie Nima Gnyangou
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
—Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki
Simply put, if we want to learn something new, there must be room for it. A beginner’s mind is a fertile space for change and growth.
In the West, we come from an intellectually dominant culture, and it can be difficult to allow this over-developed muscle to relax when it has been honed for a lifetime. Additionally, EuroAmerican-centric cultures are historically riddled with unconscious bias around the superiority of Western ways of knowing. As human beings, the truth is that we can never proclaim to put down all of our biases and prejudices 100%, however we can do our best to continuously study them—and practice releasing them.
It is wise to study our orientation to indigenous science, cultures, and ways of knowing. Considering that indigenous cultures all over the world learned the medicinal properties of thousands of plants without any laboratories, this is nothing short of magic.
We can come with respect in our heart for the Bwiti tradition, which has been studying the Iboga medicine for eons within devotional and reciprocal relationship.
In the West, our approach is often “learn in order to do,” such as reading books or hearing explanations before trying out a new skill. In the Bwiti, the approach is more often “do in order to learn,” through close observation and direct experience. We invite you to make space to fully receive Bwiti ceremony while allowing the intellect to take a backseat, all while observing your own direct experience.
BE 100% HONEST WITH YOURSELF & YOUR PROVIDERS
Truth is not only essential for creating basic mental, physical, and spiritual safety with Iboga; truth is where all authentic healing begins. It is vital to be truthful with your providers, and also with yourself. When we can be truthful with others, then we can be truthful with ourselves. When we can allow others to see us, we can better see ourselves.
Sometimes when people are struggling with the “spirit of addiction,” there can be a tendency to rationalize the consumption of various substances or to omit important information. Here are some classic examples of statements from the “spirit of addiction,” which loves to hide the truth as a survival mechanism:
“It’s ok, it’s just one sleeping pill.”
“I’m sure just taking this contraindicated medicine is ok, just this once. It will probably leave my system in time.”
“People go to Ibogaine for detox, so I don’t see any reason why I can’t take this right before treatment.”
“I need to take this for my concentration/ relaxation/ functionality. It’s not a drug since it’s a medication.”
“This Kratom is natural, so it must be ok.”
Beware of the voice of the spirit of addiction. It can cloud judgment and cause denial. A lack of honesty is not only dangerous for one’s self and the container, but it also creates a more difficult experience with the medicine.
The medicine itself is a powerful “truth serum.” The truth finds its way out sooner or later. We request for 100% honesty from our guests. We have deep compassion and no judgement for what has happened in the past, but it is important for us to be aware of the complete truth in order to best support the healing offered by Iboga.
UNDERSTANDING HOW IBOGA WORKS
Sometimes people ask (and worry): “Will Iboga change me?”
The medicine doesn’t change you. It simply purifies you. It can help to remove the trauma responses or coping mechanisms that can be mistaken as identity. The medicine allows our true self to shine through, with our participation.
The medicine is a highly intelligent and powerful “amplifier.” It can amply our love, gratitude, good intentions, and artistic choices around how we are using our minds. Likewise, the medicine will also amplify any neurosis or wounds that haven’t been fully healed.
Why would the medicine amplify our neurosis? This amplification is a stage of the purge process. First, the medicine turns up the volume on the patterns of our mind so that we can study it closer, for we cannot ever let go of psychic material until we fully know what we are letting go of. The medicine will then continue to turn up the volume on our patterns until we are either ready to accept what is present—or we are finally ready to change how we are using our mind with conviction. We are given a potent opportunity to create new patterns.
It can be painful and challenging to grow out of old patterns that aren’t serving us anymore, but that have also helped us to survive until this moment in time. It is likened to outgrowing a heavy and burdensome suit of armor. At a point, shedding the painful old armor becomes crucial to a healthy and sustainable life.
The Iboga experience is the most psychologically complex medicine. The medicine itself is quite clear, simple, and elegant, however we human beings tend to be the complex ones. We love to overcomplicate things with our evolved intellects. Iboga allows us to find the most simple and clear path forward.
With Iboga, it is vital to be willing to see everything that resides within us and everything that the medicine would like to show us, even if it is painful or challenging. The truth is the ultimate liberator. Only the truth provides the “solid ground” on which we can build a meaningful and authentic life vs. the paper-mache version that we wish it were.
The Iboga medicine will touch the tender nerves of trauma. Iboga invites us to fully feel all that has not yet been fully felt. Trauma is essentially unfinished business, and the medicine offers us a chance to face, digest, metabolize, and release stuck trauma.
STUDY YOUR MIND
Practice being the detached observer of your own mind. Supportive modalities and practices include meditation and walking-meditation, yoga, and breath work. If these practices are new to you, it can be wise to learn from experienced teachers.
It is a great skill to be able to watch the mind during the medicine ceremony. There is a saying we appreciate: “Don’t believe everything you think.” We practice watching the nature of our mind without reactivity, so we can discern our trauma responses from the voice of our soul. We can learn to watch our mind with compassion and non-judgement, for there is no healing without LOVE. There is no shame in anything that arises in the mind, we just learn to respond to it differently, for healing and liberation.
Journaling is a fantastic practice. It doesn’t have to be linear, logical, or literal. It can be poetic stream of consciousness, boundless in its expression. Have fun and go wild. Practice facing your thoughts, feelings, fears, and desires in writing.
Try the “Mental Habits Game.” Track your 3 most common thoughts throughout the day, with curiosity and compassion rather than judgement. Notice:
• What are they?
• How do they feel in your body?
• Would you like them to be different? If so, what would you like to focus on?
Meditation is also an ideal practice. Even practicing for 5 dedicated minutes a day can be profoundly helpful. It’s better to start with low goals and gradually work up to longer sits. Having a comfortable, sacred, beautiful space to practice is a profound way to support your practice. This is our favorite and ergonomically supportive artisan maker of meditation cushions.
CREATE QUESTIONS FOR THE MEDICINE
Asking questions in the medicine space is a traditional and signature purpose of Iboga. In the origin story as it has been passed down to us through the tradition, the spirit of Iboga introduced itself to the first woman who intentionally received the medicine and said, “I have watched you human beings for a long time, and I have come to answer your questions.” This speaks to us of an ancient love story of coevolution. The medicine “studied” our DNA for eons in order to cultivate this function for us.
Take time to listen inward and begin to write your questions. These are questions that you need to know the answers to. We recommend having no more than 10-15 concise questions so that you can deeply focus—and then deeply integrate the answers.
You can ask questions about how you can release or heal certain areas of your life. It can also be important for people to understand the roots of their patterns by asking “why” type of questions.
The work with Iboga is half destruction and half creation. Every time we release a pattern, that is essentially precious energy, time, and creativity that is freed up—and it must go somewhere. In addition to releasing or healing what brings us suffering, it is equally important to ask questions about what we want to create instead.
Who has the answers? It’s not us! Your soul has the answers. The medicine is the “phone line” straight to the soul, our highest self. Once enough trauma and toxins have been cleared, the answers become accessible.
Through the unique guided journey process of the Missoko Bwiti, we help guests to ask their questions in ceremony. Sometimes the answers come immediately like a bolt of lightning in ceremony, sometimes the answers come the day after ceremony, and occasionally the answers come after people return home and begin to integrate when they become “ripe” to receive them. Yet, the answers always come in our experience, if we continue to listen closely to the medicine, listen to our soul, and respect ourselves.
There is guidance to create questions in our signature Preparation Playbook. The SoulCentro facilitators will go over questions with the guests onsite at the retreat, while supporting with Bwiti counsel and further refining them for the medicine experience.
CLEAR YOUR MENTAL SPACE
Prepare to treat yourself like a precious newborn baby. Coming to the Iboga medicine, you are essentially “giving rebirth” to yourself. Just as you would prepare carefully for the birth of a child, prepare for the rebirth of yourself. You’ll want to create sacred, clean, safe space for yourself.
Stay away from triggering, negative, depleting, or traumatizing media: news, movies, music, games, social platforms, pornography, etc.
Slow down. Give yourself dedicated time for introspection, rest, deep self-care, silence, time in nature, and nourishing community. Limit time for work and non-urgent errands or chores. Take as much time “out of the matrix” as possible both before and after the retreat. Instead of trying to constantly do as much as possible, try to do as little as possible. Limit social functions to the bare essentials. Be discerning with how you spend your time and energy. Give yourself activities that feel joyful and soothing.
Of course, we understand that most people have busy lives, and available time away from work and other obligations may be scarce. Simply take as long as possible. Even a very intentional day or even an afternoon both before and after your journey can be profoundly beneficial.
CLEAR YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE
*Iboga-inspired art by Chor Boogie Nima Gnyangou
Our physical space reflects our mental space—and our mental space reflects our physical space. Literally let go of the past that no longer serves. Go through your closets, basement, and attic. Give away any items that no longer bring joy to your soul or that you do not intend to actively utilize moving forward in your new chapter. Create space for the new life you are calling in.
At the same time, respect your energy and pace yourself. Do what you can and release excess cleansing projects or perfectionism.
TEND YOUR COMMUNITY
“The medicine is only as good as the web of relationships that hold it.”
We are the sum of the 5 people that we spend the most time with. Embracing this truth, we can curate our community with great reverence, awareness, and self-respect. Surround yourself with inspiring, supportive, safe friends and family. If you don’t have this kind of community—practice cultivating it. Connect with local psychedelic societies or healthy and open-minded spiritual communities.
It’s wise to seek peer support from people you love, trust, respect, and who are and open-minded about this experience, both before you arrive and after you return.
If you have difficult, painful, toxic, or triggering relationships in your life, give yourself permission to put them “on pause” or at least create more space for yourself during the sensitive preparation and integration periods. You can always return to them when you feel stronger, when your “new skin” has grown in.
ROMANCING THE SOUL
The Bwiti path shows us: the soul is our “golden compass” that has all the answers we need for authentic happiness, love, and fulfillment. And our soul is always listening.
Like any good relationship, the relationship with our soul is based on respect. We must respect our soul if we want to receive its magical and profound guidance. Just as we would eventually move further away from someone who is speaking to us in a derogatory way, our soul will move away from us as well, and then we are left feeling lost, disconnected, confused, uncertain, and unhappy.
Practice loving self-talk. Give yourself the same compassion, patience, presence, emotional availability, kindness, and dedication that you would a dear friend.
THE MEDICINE STARTS WORKING FROM AFAR
Almost universally, we hear from each guest that they “feel the medicine working” well in advance of their arrival. This is the medicine beginning to stir the pot of all that we are, drawing things to the surface of our consciousness to be studied and healed. This is in fact what the medicine does for us in ceremony, only in a more amplified way.
We call this phenomenon “medicine pre-op,” as we see that the medicine responds immediately to the energetic commitment to commune with it. This reflects the vast intelligence and broad-reaching power of this profound plant spirit.
As the medicine begins to make shifts in our life, it may be challenging and we may find excuses not to attend our planned ceremony. Simply inquire: Is this coming from my soul—or from fear? In these moments, we encourage you to listen deeply to the soul. Examine how we can let go of the old ways in order to make room for new ways.
We offer a “Medicine Navigation” talk before the first ceremony of each retreat. You can also begin to apply these simple yet sacred navigation tips when the medicine begins to work from afar:
• Say “thank you, medicine,” for all that is being shown and experience
• Be present in your body and 6 senses
• Be curious about everything in the medicine journey
• Be an “artist of breath,” which is simply responding to each moment with the breathing that is most complimentary
It is very common and normal to have fears arise prior to the medicine. Indeed, we would be concerned if someone had no fears, anxieties, or “butterflies” in relation to this experience. Somewhere under the fear is also respect for the medicine.
Question: What is it that is truly afraid? It may be the fear of the old patterns themselves, called entities in a shamanic lens, that are afraid of being evicted.
We can choose to face the fears. Fear itself hints at undiscovered treasures, strength, and initiations. It is difficult to face the unknown.
There may be fear of failure. There can also fear of success. Some people may not be conscious of their fear of success, but find it upon closer examination.
These fears can be alleviated by focusing on this very present moment, paying deep attention to our breath, the voice of our soul, and the 6 senses (5 physical senses + intuition). The journey is achieved one breath at a time.
We ask our guests to stay off of social media, news, and non-essential internet use while at the retreat. Avoid “click-bait” at all costs.
Please note that we ask our guests to be completely off all electronic devices (including cell phones, computers, tablets, digital reading devices such as Kindles, games, and voice recorders) for the full 24 hours after each ceremony night. These are called “Discovery Days,” and they fall on day 3 and day 6 during a 7 night retreat, and also day 9 during a 10 night retreat. These days are a sacred part of the ceremony experience and must be held within the ceremony container. Please inform your friends, family, and professional associates that you will be unavailable during these days.
Sometimes a strong desire can arise to contact someone on the Discovery Days due to the cathartic nature of this phase, and yet these are very pivotal and sensitive times for personal processing. We want to avoid “Iboga dialing” for that can strongly pull someone out of their precious process. Be prepared to remain full present in the alchemical vessel of the ceremony container.