Aaron Rodgers says taking ayahuasca helped improve mental health and spurred MVP seasons

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast that he consumed ayahuasca prior to his back-to-back MVP seasons, crediting the plant-based psychedelic for helping produce two of the best seasons of his career thanks to a change in mindset and improvement of his mental health.

"I don't think it's a coincidence," Rodgers said about winning his third and fourth MVPs in 2020 and 2021 following an ayahuasca experience in South America. "I really don't. I don't really believe in coincidences at this point. It's the universe bringing things to happen when they're supposed to happen.

"There's signs and synchronicities all around us at all times if we're awake enough to see them and to take them in and to listen to our intuition when it's speaking to us or pounding us in the head saying, 'Hey dummy, this is what you're supposed to be doing.'"

Rodgers said his decision to try ayahuasca was prompted by a prior experience he had with psychedelics – Marcus said Rodgers once told him that "one of the best days of my life" involved taking mushrooms on a beach where he subsequently "felt myself merge with the ocean" – as well as from listening to Marcus' podcast.

Rodgers said people focus on the negatives of ayahuasca – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hallucinations among the many side effects – but not the "deep and meaningful and crazy mind-expanding possibilities and also deep self-love and healing that can happen on the other side" after taking the drug. Ayahuasca contains DMT (dimethyltryptamine), which is a Schedule I drug in the United States.   

He said that following the trip and ayahuasca experience he "knew that I was never going to be the same."

"For me, I didn't do that and think 'oh, I'm never playing football again,'" Rodgers said. "No, it gave me a deep and meaningful appreciation for life. My intention the first night going in was 'I want to feel what pure love feels like.' That was my intention. And I did. I really did. I had a magical experience with the sensation of feeling a hundred different hands on my body imparting a blessing of love and forgiveness for myself and gratitude for this life from what seemed to be my ancestors."

The experience, Rodgers said, "set me on my course to be able to go back in to my job and have a different perspective on things. To be way more free at work, as a leader, as a teammate, as a friend, as a lover. I really feel like that experience paved the way for me to have the best season of my career (in 2020)."

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Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after a 2021 game.
Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after a 2021 game.

Rodgers got emotional talking about the importance of self-love, his "ego death" during another ayahuasca experience with Marcus and how he feels the experience helped him achieve self-love. He paused several times to fight back tears.

"You can't do anything in this life until you really, truly unconditionally love yourself," Rodgers said. "So that's what I had to do. I had to surrender fully to the idea that everything I was telling myself was true. That's when it finally broke. I laid there on that mat and I made peace with the possibility that all of these lies I was telling myself could possibly be true. In that reality of the worst self-talk you can possibly imagine, feeling like the lowest human on the planet and not worthy ever in this life of unconditional love...

"...I laid there with that reality, that being my reality – that all the things I said about myself are true, and are real. And I said 'Is there anybody in this room who could still love me?'" Rodgers said Marcus came to mind first.

"What came through next was the voice in my head – which wasn't really my voice anymore – and it said: 'If at your lowest of the low, these people can still love you, then you should be able to love yourself.'"

Rodgers said the experience also helped with his mental health.

"To me, one of the core tenants of your mental health is that self-love. That's what ayahuasca did for me, was help me see how to unconditionally love myself," Rodgers said. "It's only in that unconditional self-love that I'm able to truly be able to unconditionally love others. And what better way to work on – this is my own belief – but what better way to work on my mental health than to have an experience like that.

"The greatest gift I can give my teammates, in my opinion, is to be able to show up and to be someone who can model unconditional love to them. I mean, obviously it's important I play well and show up and lead and all that stuff, but they won't care about what you say until they know how much you care."

Rodgers, 38, is the highest-paid player in the NFL. He's entering his 18th season with the Packers. He captured the MVP award in 2011, 2014, 2020 and 2021, last season throwing for 4,115 yards and 37 touchdowns for the NFC's No. 1 seed. In 2020, Rodgers led the NFL in completion percentage (70.7%) and touchdowns (a career-high 48).

He reflected on his career as a whole with Marcus and discussed what keeps him going.

"I've dealt with a lot of disappointment in my career. Lot of incredible moments, highs and great wins, win a Super Bowl, win MVPs. I've also dealt with the disappointing losses, some that stick with you forever," Rodgers said. "But at the core of it, there's such a love for the game.

"There's such a deep and intense love and gratitude for what I get to do. You can't measure it. That's why I keep wanting to come back and play and literally pour my soul into my sport, and the relationships with the guys, and the Monday to Saturday grind, and the meetings and practice, and the side conversations, and the late night texts – everything that goes into doing what I do. I do it because I love it." 

Late in the podcast, Rodgers touched on his relationship with his family and his 2021 offseason standoff with the Packers. A shift in perspective, he said, helped him move past his issues with the team.

"There has to be some acknowledgement of the flawed nature in all of us. It’s only, I believe, in that realization and understanding of the flawed nature of humanity that we learn what unconditional love truly is," Rodgers said. "That really allowed me to see, not just with my relationship with my family, but with friendships and lovers, differently, by not having this idealism that things should be a certain way. Or that perfection is a quality that has to exist in every iteration in every relationship. It’s in the flaws and the scars and the thorns that we actually find the true beauty in each other, I believe. It’s in the mundane experiences. The simplicity...

“I had some back-and-forths with the Packers during the offseason and at the core of it is realizing we’re all flawed people and we all bring our own egos and ideas and experiences to the table. At the core, there’s opportunities to see those flaws and to find unconditional love for those people, those experiences, those organizations, those families that have really molded us and shaped us into who we are."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Rodgers credits ayahuasca with winning back-to-back MVPs