Saturday, 15 November 2014

A journey of the Soul - Shamanic Retreat in Amazon

Welcome to the Amazon Jungle!

We flew from Lima to Iquitos on the 5th of November 2013. A warm and tropical weather welcomed us which was a sudden change after 2 months in the cool Andean Mountains. Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest and it reminded me of Thailand with its rickshaws and humid weather. Upon checking into a small hostel, and a great ceviche for lunch, we visited a local market with many different indigenous plant medicines and herbs.

Streets of Iquitos
The main reason of our trip to this city was to attend a 9 day shamanic retreat in the Amazon Jungle. Shamanic tourism is already very popular in Peru with many organisations promising different experiences, hence it is highly recommended to do a thorough research before booking a retreat. Unfortunately, there are many shamans who are in the game just for the money and you may end up paying a couple of thousand dollars for a bad experience.

Local Market

We decided to do our spiritual journey with “LaFamilia Medicina”. We actually found out about this organisation through a Portuguese traveller whom we met in Arequipa. He has been to one of their retreats and spoke positively about his experiences. It is also a donation based model which made it financially easier for us. I recently found out that the founder of La Familia Medicina, Zack, has left Peru, so I am not sure about the current situation of this establishment.

After spending two days in Iquitos, we and 11 other soul searchers left for an unknown journey in the early morning of November 7th. We took a bus to a remote village where we caught a speed boat deep into the Amazon Jungle. The boat did not feel safe, but it brought us to our destination after 2 hours. We were greeted by our host Zack who is the founder of La Familia Medicina. He brought us to the local police office for registration. Then, we took another boat to the camp site. When we arrived, we were welcomed by our warm-hearted Peruvian family who has been living in the Amazon jungle for generations. They provided all we needed and cared for us during our stay. 

La Familia Medicina (Picture by Martin Larrivee)

The centre does not have electricity or phone coverage and only source of water is from the magnificent Amazon River. However, we were provided bottled water for drinking.

I am not going to write about Ayahuasca specifically as there are so many people who have a lot more experience than I have. If you are interested to find out more, I would suggest you to watch the documentary “DMT the Spirit Molecule” and read an interesting article by Kira Salak of National Geographicwho beautifully wrote about her experiences with this sacred wine which has been an integral part of the Amazon culture to connect with the higher level of consciousness. 

In this article, I will reflect upon my personal journey within these extraordinary nine days. This is a very unique journey of the soul and everyone in the group had totally different experiences. One of the participants, Martin Larrivee, actually made an amazing documentary about his journey and insights which you can watch on Youtube. I would also advise not to expect anything and to keep an open mind, if you decide to try this sacred brew one day.

On our first day, we started the “Shamanic Dieta” which is a very strict diet without salt, sugar, spices, alcohol, and red meat. We also had to observe complete celibacy during the retreat. As part of the program, we drank a medicinal tree bark tea for 4 days for cleansing. The food was prepared for us, so there was no need to worry about breaking the diet.

The retreat facilities (Picture by Martin Larrivee)
The main reason behind my participation in this retreat was to find my purpose in life and I was hoping for clear answers and guidance from the universe.

The first ceremony started at 7 pm on the second day. I felt excited and scared. Everybody gathered in the ceremony room and the main shaman, Gumercindo, started to chant icaros which are traditional shamic songs for guiding the spirit. Then one by one, all of us drank a cup of this bitter brew. After candles were blown off, the journey of the spirits started slowly while the family kept chanting different icaros throughout the ceremony.

My first night was peaceful. I felt being melted into the music and singing and saw my soul sitting by a camp-fire with some indigenous elders. Then, I started to throw up which is very common upon drinking Ayahuasca. When I asked what I was throwing up, the answer was "shame"! Ayahuasca actually cleans blockages in the body which can feel quite harsh at times. I felt a deep connection with God/universe and my higher self and received clear messages about my purpose being a psychotherapist and healing people. The ceremony lasted for about 6 hours and I was feeling grateful at the end of it. 

Alex being treated by our Peruvian mother (Picture by Martin Larrivee)

Each morning after the ceremony, there was a feedback session where we talked about our experiences and asked questions to the shaman to the uncertain clarify parts of the journey. It was very helpful to reflect back on these sessions and listen to other peoples’ stories.

The second ceremony was potent and intense for me. I experienced hatred coming up from deep inside. It was evil, nasty and felt poisonous. I vomited a lot and sensed a big release. It is amazing how much mental junk we carry inside of our body and how it affects us. I also had distressing memories from my childhood. I was able to see that my belief about “I cannot do it alone” started at that time period. I received clear messages stating that my life was not about me. It was about how I help others in a meaningful way.

Sunset before the ceremony (Picture by Martin Larrivee)
The third ceremony was a nightmare. It started with very vivid colours and patterns and became more intense with each passing minute. Actually, the concept of time loses its meaning during these ceremonies and minutes can feel like months. I had a vision of an extremely complex and busy highway of energy moving around and going through me. I couldn't move my body and was terrified with the thought that I was paralysed. I was certainly pushed to my limits and I wasn’t able to surrender because of the fear of losing control. That night, I contemplated on not continuing with the retreat.

I didn’t attend the next ceremony, because I was physically and mentally exhausted. Cleansing process combined with a strict diet can be very strenuous. I sat in the ceremony room but didn’t drink the brew. It was a good decision as I felt more relaxed, confident and trusting.

I decided to participate in the next ceremony to get over my fears. It was exactly what I needed to regain my confidence. I threw up and sweated a lot. I saw myself trying to imitate other people and was told to be myself with the message that I am gifted in ways that I don’t realise. Later on, I felt bliss and love of the universe. I had a vision of guiding my grandmother to cross over to the other side. At the time, I thought that was just a vision. However, after the retreat, I found out that my grandmother indeed passed away on the same night when I had the vision.Finding about my grandmother's death was a profound and emotional experience with lots of sadness and tears. May your soul have peace dear grandmother, I love you!

(Picture by Martin Larrivee)

The last session was a lot of physical cleansing until the morning. I witnessed the tension, anxiety and worry about the future which creates nothing but stress in my life. In my visions, I was told to relax and be more trusting to the flow of life.

After 9 days of intense soul journey, I was ready to leave the jungle and face the world with more strength, compassion, love and insights. I was happy to let go of some of my shame, guilt, fear, pride, anxiety and judgements. A feeling of bliss came over me and I was FREE of my heavy burdens!

The death of my grandmother reminded me of our limited time on this beautiful planet. May all of us live our lives to the fullest and find meaning and purpose we search for. Life is too short to have regrets. Learn from your mistakes and move on to new horizons. Don't let your fears hold you back!     

(Picture by Martin Larrivee)

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