In recent years, psychedelics have returned to society in many ways. In the 60’s when they made their appearance, they were portrayed as dangerous drugs used mostly by hippies.  In the past several years, though, they have been studied by major institutions as well as psychologists and other groups for their potential benefits. 

Ayahuasca is a plant medicine that is classified as a psychedelic.  One of the active ingredients is DMT, or dimethyl tryptamine. DMT is contained in almost every life form on the planet, including animals, plants and fungus.

Ayahuasca is a tea that is created by brewing two plants that originate in South America.  Chacruna leaves possess several alkaloids, but most importantly contain high concentrations of DMT.  The ayahuasca vine (b. Caapi) contains quite a few other compounds, but the most important is the MAOI that allows the DMT to be ingested in a way that the body can receive it.  With the entourage of compounds and alkaloids, the tea is complete. 

The effects of ayahuasca are vastly different for each person who chooses to sit with this medicine. Each person who consumes ayahuasca more than once will experience each journey differently as well. 

There is no way to describe the experience to someone who hasn’t sat with it, but there are some commonalities. Generally, the body feels heavy, some people experience bright colors and visions, and most importantly, emotions and traumas are explored in a compassionate way, in order to reconcile them. 

Purging is one of the desired results.  Purging refers to a purging of energy, which sometimes comes with vomit or going to the bathroom.  While this may seem uncomfortable, it is actually the opposite. Many of us refer to this as “getting well”.  Once the energy is out of the body, a feeling of peace and content follows.  It really does feel good. 

I first came to ayahuasca in 2017 while battling a decade long addiction.  I tried so many things to get better, but nothing was working. I attended twelve step groups for three years, and I was very active in the program.  It gave me no relief. I was desperate, and when I heard Joe Rogan talk about it on his podcast, I decided to go for it – I really had nothing to lose.

After one retreat, I was relieved of my compulsion to use, along with my resentment toward my father. I felt instant relief, and that started me on my journey of healing. I am now living a completely different life, one that is in alignment with my dharma, one that I am proud of and happy to wake up to every day. 

After sitting with the medicine several times at a church in Florida, I started volunteering every week.  After a few months, I was offered a paid position, which I gladly accepted. 

I spent the next year washing thousands of purge buckets, making beds and holding space in ceremony. I found my purpose.  I thought I would be there forever because I couldn’t imagine doing something else. 

About a year in, I had a relapse, and lost my position with the church.  That was my final wake up call and heeded its gravity immediately.

I never thought about opening a church up myself, I really didn’t think I was qualified.  A couple of months after leaving the church, someone who had trained to serve medicine in Peru, whom I met at my home church, reached out and asked me to organize a retreat for him. 

I declined many times until he eventually got me to agree. This part of my story is really difficult to put into words. The easiest way to describe it is that the universe put this in front of me and wouldn’t let me walk away.  There were multiple times when it appeared as the sanctuary was going to fold, just to have a miracle happen, which kept it going.  Many miracles had to happen for us to be still operating. 

Through the process, I had lawyers come to me, helping us file paperwork and get our church protected under the First Amendment, freedom of religion.  Today, we have roughly 1500 members, a robust, talented and loving team, and divine guidance.  

Ayahuasca for me, and many others, is nothing short of life-changing.  I feel so grateful that the medicine chose me to help bring it to this corner of the world.  


Derek Januszewski is the founder and Lead Pastor at Pachamama Sanctuary

Pachamama Sanctuary, an Ayahuasca Center, located in Southern New Hampshire, was founded in 2019. Since its inception, their mission is to raise collective consciousness through the sacrament, Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a tea derived from plants from the Amazon rainforest and has helped people gain insight and provide clarity into past traumas and provides a chance to find peace resulting from addiction, PTSD or negative cycles.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series that will include our Zoom interview with Derek Januszewski.