Gabor Mate and the Ayahuasca Project

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Dr. Gabor Mate (a man much referenced on this site)(by me)(also someone I spoke about extensively in my most recent one man show) leads retreats twice a year in which a number of participants ingest the Peruvian psychotropic plant medicine ayahuasca, in the context of what can best be described as group therapy. I hesitate to use that term, actually. I participated in one of these retreats this past March, and the experience was.... well, I can't sum it up in less than an hour (every time I tell the story, it goes on at least that long)(so I'll probably make it the subject of my next one man show). In short, it helped me understand a few things that have probably changed the course of my life.

But if someone had told me in advance that I was in for a week of group therapy, I would have pictured a certain thing, and that wouldn't have been what that retreat actually was. Although it did involve a couple dozen people sitting in a large circle, and talking. About serious, personal things. But touchy feely airy fairy group therapy? Nah. Wasn't that. But it was.

A documentary film crew has been chronicling Dr. Mate's research into the healing potential of ayahuasca - helping break people's addictive cycles, whether to chemical substances, or to any fixation of the ego. The preview below gives a taste of what he has discovered, and what how he leads groups in Canada through this healing process. As far as I know, some of this footage will be used in an upcoming episode of David Suzuki's The Nature of Things on CBC (though there's no set air date yet). The documentary, so says the project's website, is being shopped around to distributors and film festivals. I'm eager to see it.

The Ayahuasca Project - trailer from The Ayahuasca Project on Vimeo.

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  • Comment Link Álvaro Saturday, 16 July 2011 14:09 posted by Álvaro

    Ayahuasca(Santo Daime), permite Novas Descobertos, Ela Ensina, Ela Cura!

  • Comment Link Leah Adams Wednesday, 31 August 2011 23:14 posted by Leah Adams

    It looks like a powerful door may be opening. I hope Dr. Mate lives a long and fruitful life. He may change the world.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Saturday, 03 September 2011 03:50 posted by TJ Dawe

    I would give anything for the kind of ritual and setting Mate created in that retreat to be available on a widespread basis. In Aldous Huxley's novel Island, he lays out what he would proscribe for an ideal society, and psychedelic mushrooms are ingested at certain points in a person's life, under the guidance of a mentor. It's done as a means of achieving growth and understanding. If Huxley had ever had the chance to take ayahuasca, I wouldn't be surprised if he'd gone with that substance instead.

  • Comment Link Dorothy Trueblood Saturday, 01 October 2011 03:09 posted by Dorothy Trueblood

    What I'd like to say to Dr. Mate is: physician, heal thyself. He has a tendency to awe people and to attract a tremendously loyal following. I'm not saying he shouldn't, but I think they should take a careful look beyond that magnetism and see him as he is: a fragmented, wounded soul obsessively seeking his own healing, often in vain.

  • Comment Link Juma Wood Saturday, 01 October 2011 03:59 posted by Juma Wood


    I don't know the man well enough to confirm or deny your comment, but it is a curious one.

    Do you have some evidence or clinical background that would support this rather startling analysis?

    I certainly find that Dr. Mate appears to carry something of a weight on him, though this would be understandable given his work.

    I also don't experience him as particularly magnetic in any sort of ego-maniacal way. He's an activist to be sure, passionate and determined.

    I don't know a single soul who couldn't at some level benefit from your advice. Seems odd to hurl it at someone who is doing so much good, seemingly selflessly.

    I wonder when I read comments like this if we stand any chance when those among us who step forward are guaranteed to be attacked by those who are doing less (not to suggest this of you, since I can't speak to that).

    I'd be curious to hear more from you about this.

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Monday, 03 October 2011 07:20 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Saw this NYT article today, related to what Mate is up to:

    It reports on how doctors at schools like Harvard, John Hopkins, UCLA and NYU are testing the potential of psilocybin and other hallucinogens for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism—and for inducing spiritual experiences.

    Mate is working with addiction but it's a similar vien. (um, no pun intended.)

  • Comment Link happy camper Thursday, 27 October 2011 12:49 posted by happy camper

    This documentary will air on November 10th.

  • Comment Link Barb Friday, 11 November 2011 02:45 posted by Barb

    I heard Dr Mate on CBC this morning - fascinating - interview was so moving, very personal to me. his perspective on addiction is right on to my mind - addiction being part of my immediate family. Can't wait to see his Nature of Things doc - I think he's brilliant. Yes, do a show about your experience!

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