Iboga is a Rite of Passage, and like all rites of passage, there will be something ‘given up’, and something ‘given to’. It is an opportunity to mark the death of one’s youthful learnings; programs that were written in the past in response to outgrown environments; programs that we wrote, and that now rule us. It is simultaneously a time to mark the birth of the new phase in life, a maturing of oneself. It is through this dying process, a dying to ourselves, that space for new-ness and rebirth is born. In the past our elders decided when we were ready to transition into the next life stage, now we are own masters, and with that comes a responsibility to know ourselves. Like any Rite of Passage, we approach such an experience with preparation; we earn the experience, it’s not something we necessarily repeat time and time again. And yet time and time again we are able re-utilise and re-visit such experiences through reflection - integrating and deepening the information we were shown, the places we visited and the lessons we learned. We will explore here some of the ways in which we are able to sustain ourselves through an Iboga experience; how to get the most out of a session with this intelligent and precious plant teacher. There is an invitation here to enter into a life-long relationship with an ancient entheogen that can nourish us for years to come. We are sharing what we have found has a lasting effect, based on witnessing and experiencing countless visits to Dr. Iboga.
So how does one approach this opportunity? Some people would chose to wear their finest Selves, to leave a good impression on the Iboga spirit. With such high standards, we will likely never consider ourselves ready. Being ‘pure’ is not synonymous with ‘having no baggage’. Purity is about transparency - owning the truth of a situation as it is, not as we want it to be. Regardless, there is nothing one can hide from Iboga. The Iboga experience has been likened to a meeting with a stern fatherly figure. The crucial analogy here is that while a father may be direct, and lack the soft subtleties of a mother, his unconditional love is unshakable, and his guidance is to the point; simple and free from ambiguity. Iboga is as judgemental of us as we are to ourselves, a true mirror of sorts. We find that by treating such an experience with the utmost humility and respect, we in turn treat ourselves with humility and respect, and experience a gentle and kind interaction with Iboga. This is the basis of all psychological and intentional preparation for Iboga. Any human experience is more potent with a specific intention - where consciousness goes, energy flows. To begin working with one’s intention before meeting Iboga will allow the experience to deepen. It gives Iboga a language to work with and a set of symbols to relay meaning with. Take time before hand to develop a dialogue within yourself. Broaden your language and understanding around your intention. Iboga works with what you give it, and like most mind-manifesting medicines, is much stronger as an adjunct therapy, where an intentional context has already been established. Any preliminary psychological work merely allow Iboga to fast track your personal development. Iboga is like 3 years of therapy, in 1 night; best to use those fleeting hours wisely, precisely, consciously. You are not the victim to your Iboga experience, you are a participant, and you will learn to become a co-creator of your own life, no more the victim of circumstances past.
The physical preparation is a little different. Iboga is a heart medicine, physically strong on the heart, and symbolically connecting us to the heart of our very existence, our genetic lineage and the very grounding which we have built our sense of Self upon. It is negligible and arrogant to not consider the stress Iboga will put on one’s heart. A simple ECG will bring to light any pre-existing stress on the heart, and rule out those unfit for Iboga. Specific blood tests for namely the liver and kidney function combined with a thorough medical history will also rule out contraindicated conditions. Traditionally Bwiti consider deaths as weak individuals, unfit for the heaviness of this life. Statistically death is extremely unlikely by following these basic preparatory guidelines. There are certain psychological states which can be enhanced and amplified through Iboga in ultimately a detrimental way to the individual’s mental health. These too can be uprooted and directed to a more fitting therapy for the present time pre-treatment.
While a cleaner system means clearer communication, it is not advisable to undergo any heavy purgative cleansing pre-treatment for risk of dehydration or toxicity in the system. We work with a more gentle physical clearing for ideally 2-4 weeks post treatment: Silybum mariunum as an hepatoprotectant and inflammatory mediator, Plantago ovata as a mucilage to rectify bowel transit time, Vitamin C with bioflavonoids as antioxidants for cardiovascular health, and Magnesium citrate as a bioavailable cardiotonic to improve electrical conductivity and signalling of the nervous & cardiovascular systems. It can not be overstated how important an abundant electrolyte count is going into an Iboga journey. One must be overly hydrated as there will be a loss of fluids in some way, be it purging through perspiration, emesis or the bowels. This is easily addressed by switching all fluids to coconut water for the 2-3 days leading up to the experience.
The after-Self-care begins alongside the initial pre-treatment preparation. There is a window of opportunity for profound growth in the first month post-Iboga, and the healing potential of this phase as the nor-ibogaine is slowly metabolised out of the fat cells into ibogaine, will only be unlocked with preparation. After-care is as important as the Iboga experience itself. Iboga is going to dig up the deep stuff, and what you do with the next month of your life will define where it settles; back down into the loose soil for regrowth, or are you planting new more sustainable seeds in this fertile time? Your mind will be elastic and impressionable - fill it with self compassion and direction. Now is the time to cultivate all aspects of your being in the simplest of way, giving daily attention to the creative, intellectual, financial, spiritual and emotional parts of your life. It will always be the neglected aspects of ourselves that motivate unhealthy behaviours. It is wise to have a plan in place to surrender to with sessions pre-booked with counsellors and body therapists, ideally ones open to psychedelic therapies. Having a supportive environment to return to will aid in a smooth integration, so familiarising one’s close network with the Rite of Passage you are undertaking is important.
When we consider the cost of Iboga as a medicine not just financially as a treatment method, but also energetically the time it takes the plant to age into its optimal alkaloidal content (roughly 8 years minimum), the limited conditions it grows in, or the fact that the individual plant will die to be harvested for its root stock; its knowledge exchanged for its life, only then can we begin to understand how we must treat this sacred experience. With rumours of a dwindling Iboga population, fatalities attributed to the mistaken consumption of cardiotoxic ‘iboga cuts/replacements’ on the web, and a general lacking in safe Iboga use and quality control world-wide, we have a responsibility as custodians of this plant to consider how the future of Iboga is being decided right now by how we chose interact with it. The longevity and integrity of the use of Iboga in the West will be determined by our ability to take Self responsibility. Participants seeking Iboga must ensure they are fit for treatment as a basis. Any deaths are not only largely avoidable, but they are extremely damaging to families, and to the entire Iboga and entheogenic movement as a whole. We cannot rely on Iboga as the antidote for our dislocation and disconnection, it will not save us. Iboga is a catalyst , it is not a cure, and the integration of our personal development is our own responsibility. Developing a sustainable approach means we get the very most out of each and every journey with Iboga, and we only approach it in the context of an holistic therapy. It’s time we evolve the jungle approach into an integrative health system.