By William Menech
Over the past year there have been two ayahuasca associated deaths at ayahuasca retreats within the healing community surrounding Iquitos, Peru. It is a very dire situation when a person comes for a measure of healing and enlightenment only to wind up in a wooden box or burned to ashes.
I began my journey to Iquitos back in 2005. I drank ayahuasca at one of the first ayahuasca retreats just outside of Iquitos. I felt the irresistible pull to the Amazon, to explore more deeply the meaning of life through the medium that ayahuasca offers. While in Iquitos that first time I saw and learned so much about the practices and community surrounding ayahuasca.
I arrived in Iquitos during June of 2013 and opened a retreat center with my Peruvian wife and family. During this time we met and befriended so many spiritual travelers, ayahuasca retreat center owners, and facilitators. I learned about their experiences and ideas while sitting and working at Dawn on the Amazon Cafe.
I have come across so many beautiful stories of healing and transformation during my time in Iquitos. Every one of these stories has been miraculous and inspiring even though there are a few I encounter from time to time that are difficult.
Caution began stirring as I noticed centers being opened by people who had only drank ayahuasca a handful of times. All of a sudden there was the first death associated with ayahuasca. Last year Matthew Dawson Clarke died and then there was a second death, Unais Gomes.
These deaths sent shock-waves through the ayahuasca healing community as well as throughout the world. The media picked up on the stories, sensationalizing and distorting the facts. In an effort to bring more clarity to the situation, the first death, even though it was at an ayahuasca retreat center, happened half a day after a tobacco purge, not from ayahuasca. The second man who died was stabbed to death by another guest. This guest did not drink ayahuasca and claimed it was self defense.
Looking further into these events a sense of urgency arose. Something needed to change. Being a part of a healing community, how could these things happen? Couldn’t they have been prevented? I am of the belief system that when one is a part of a community and these types of events happen the responsibility to analyze and find a solution lies at the feet of all within the community.
How could these things be prevented in the future? I decided to reach out to the healing centers from around Iquitos and other parts of Peru to discuss potential protocols for a new mode of operation.
I am happy to announce that we are formulating an association. This association is in collaboration with the Peruvian Government, Medical Doctors, Psychiatrists, as well as owners and operators of Ayahuasca retreats and healing centers. This association came together to discuss and establish safety and ethical guidelines that will be instituted and enforced through proper regulation. It is our intention to avoid, to the best of our ability, more dreadful events, establishing a more safe and secure environment for those that have the desire to come to Iquitos and work with this incredible medicine.
About the Author:
William Menech has over over 16 years of training in shamanic healing practices. William Menech founded Qhispikay Kawsay Ayhauasca Retreats, outside of Iquitos, Peru in 2013 with his Peruvian Wife and family. All of whom come from a shamanic lineage. William Menech is one of the Original Founders of the Ayahuasca Safety Association and is dedicated to helping people heal.