On October 26, CNN’s released an episode of “This is Life with Lisa Ling” titled Jungle Fix. In it, Lisa travels to Peru to get a close look at some ayahuasca ceremonies near Iquitos, an ayahuasca tourism hub. She talks with both gringo and native shamans, and spends some time with three war veterans living with PTSD that are seeking healing through ayahuasca after conventional treatment options failed them through and through. Throughout, Lisa remains neutral and inquisitve, and the willingness of those interviewed to share their personal stories makes the coverage more compelling and relatable.
They also spend some time talking about the effects that ayahuasca tourism is having on local communities, which is an incredibly important thing to talk about. The West’s engagement with ayahuasca communities must be conducted with the utmost respect for the people that share this gift with us.
Overall, the episode was well-researched and presented in a very accessible way. I’m glad that this sort of coverage is coming out of major American media outlets!
You watch the episode here, but if you’re like me and are blocked from viewing it there by paywall, then, well, you know how to use the internet.
The coverage also involved a series of articles.
One details the story of Richard Stroder, a veteran with PTSD that was led to ayahuasca to find healing. About his experience with the medicine, he said, “I was able to process not only experiences from the military, but also from throughout my entire life and see how they synthesized into the person I had become. I felt a love and acceptance like never before. Negativity and pain lifted from my shoulders and released from my body in what felt like what I can only describe as a psychedelic baptism.” Another on six things you should know about ayahuasca.
Yet another is the story about Kyle Nolan, an 18-year-old that travelled to Peru to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony. He was found dead days later, after the shaman allowed him to wander into the jungle alone on the third night of his ayahuasca sessions.
The incident with Kyle Nolan highlights the need to introduce measures of safety and ethics into ayahuasca tourism and shamanic practice. This must be done in a way that does not interfere with local communities or seek to Americanize or appropriate the culture or rituals of ayahuasca-using peoples.
The Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council is doing great work in this regard. Through a crowdfunding campaign, they are seeking support for their efforts to ensure the safety of seekers and the sustainability of ayahuasca harvesting and practice. Click here if you’d like to check out that campaign and donate!