I came to Peru with a broken heart. I’d lost two significant relationships in the last year. I’ve heard that you should do Ayahuasca only if you feel the calling. Well I had felt the calling loud and clear for many months, years even. Just getting louder and louder. There was no way I wasn’t going to do Ayahuasca! The first ceremony was mostly crying and purging — from every orifice! It was humiliating, but somehow that too was part of the healing. The second ceremony, I became aware of a group of beings (celestials, E.T.’s) above the group. One of them pointed at me and said, “That one there needs some loving!” I knew that I was one of these celestials, and also in the circle below. The “upper” me came down and started telling the “lower” me: “I love you. You are so beautiful. It’s OK. I’m here with you. It’s going to be OK. I love you so much!” I was familiar with the idea of “self-love,” but this was different. It was as though I GREW A NEW PSYCHIC STRUCTURE. I called it the “Agape ego.” I was loving myself the way that God loved me. I must have said “I love you” thousands of times that night, with tears streaming down my face. If I was throwing up — “I love you.” If I was having diarrhea — “I love you.” Or if I encountered someone, or one of the dogs — “I love you.” The whole rest of the week, when I saw someone, I just naturally said, “Hey. I love you.” And it was REAL. In the third ceremony the goddess Kali came to me and she CUT OUT MY HEART AND DISEMBOWELED ME. Strangely, I welcomed this! I knew she was doing this out of love. Immediately afterwards, OCEANS of love started pouring in from everywhere, filling up the gaping hole in my chest. I knew that it was the love that was already in my life — from my partner, my family, my friends, my animals. Lord, did I cry that night, just taking all of this love in. I am so glad I didn’t go to my grave not knowing what I learned that night. After that, I could not wait to get back to my life, to all the love that was waiting for me. I will never take that love for granted again.
– Randy Higgins, Ph.D., USA
My own spiritual awakening has been lifelong though it has really sped up and intensified since the turn of the century. My Ayahuasca plant medicine ceremonies offered by Ayahuasca Healings staff were incredible transformations in that awakening process through a path I might never have realized alone with my own practices. For me, sitting with the plant medicine was life changing—releasing repressed negative emotions and reaffirming spirit through the guidance and wisdom of my higher consciousness.
The Call for this healing began for me long ago when as pure consciousness; I made an agreement to do this work in this lifetime. How do I know that? Under the influence of the Ayahuasca plant medicine last month, that truth became inherently clear to me. In “real” time, however, I started doing internet searches in January 2016 for spiritual / meditative retreats I could enjoy over the 2016 summer in the weeks after I retired from teaching—a gift I would give myself (both the retiring and the spiritual experience).
As one thing led to another (my source—I learned in an epiphany during a later plant medicine ceremony—was guiding me the whole time), I happened upon the Ayahuasca Healings website. I read its detailed, informative text, viewed its videos and followed its winter / early spring retreat testimonials from the Washington state site. Trinity’s videos were also so positive and inviting, yet truthful to advise potential participants to be sure to be “ready” for the Ayahuasca experience before signing up. Then I did my own research regarding Ayahuasca plant medicine through viewing DMT documentaries and reality shows that featured Ayahuasca ceremonies, through studying peer-reviewed scientific articles regarding the actual biochemical and physiological effects of the ingestion of this powerful plant and also through reading nonfiction autobiographical accounts of this special plant ceremony. And I’ve never been a regular recreational drug user (I valued my job as a public school teacher for 30 years, doing my risking-taking in the classroom through encouraging creativity and rewarding nonconformity and freethinking in my students, but yeah, while in college many years ago, I dabbled short-term with some recreational drugs). But more and more, I was guided to this particular plant medicine. So, I waited and watched the Ayahuasca Healings website for summer retreat date offerings.
So, when the Peruvian retreats in The Sacred Valley were offered in lieu of the ones in Washington State, I analyzed this new—though pricier—alternative and decided from my heart I would go. Mid-August was when I’d be free, so I registered, added time outside of the retreat to visit Machu Picchu (I was going to be there anyway, right?) and booked my plane tickets. Ayahuasca Healings website prepared me well once I made the commitment to go. Even in the days before leaving for the retreat when I received an urgent email from Trinity with a video of him personally explaining a major change in shamans for the Ayahuasca ceremonies, I was unfazed. The traditional Shipibo shamans, native speakers who’d been offering the Ayahuasca ceremonies there in June and July, had to be replaced by Paul Diamond, a Western shaman from England, trained in many worldwide shamanic traditions. The timing was perfect—my highest excitement called me. And I cannot imagine experiencing any better Ayahuasca retreat than the one I did in Peru through the Ayahuasca Healings group. I enthusiastically recommend this Ayahuasca retreat, these facilitators and shaman.
I cannot list a hierarchy of what was most impressive or important to me about my retreat—I’m still processing the experience one month later. I know everything is connected, and I’m integrating so much yet—even through this written review (which is offered unsolicited and without compensation). But since the major vocation of my life has been public service as a schoolteacher, let me start with the people I met there and with whom I worked and shared this profound experience. Admittedly, I was a little hesitant about travelling abroad alone and going solo to this retreat. However, I must confess today that if I’d gone with a friend or partner, I would not have had as powerful an experience—both in bonding with others and in going deeper within myself. I even told my family I would be unreachable and unavailable for the eight-day retreat time and only purchased a WIFI plan for my phone, which worked in Cusco and a few other places. I’m so glad I did. If I’d relied on a confidant attending with me or on technology to stay connected, I might have played it safe with the comfortable and familiar while squandering opportunities to connect with others. All members of my retreat group came unaccompanied. My advice? Go alone if you can. Do the inner work solo, process your insights in noble silence or through journaling and then share them with others who don’t know you or your history from a hill of beans. My interactions with fellow participants were rich. The people were supportive, open and compassionate and renewed my faith in the potential of raising human consciousness on this planet.
The facilitators for my retreat: Selina, Tay, Angelica, Jose, Shivani and Andres ran workshops and events between the Ayahuasca ceremonies that featured their talents in yoga, tai chi, intuitive arts, music, drumming and dance movement—oh, and in horsemanship, too. Often, they generously offered their time and expertise just to chat informally with small groups or individual participants, helping us to process our visions and perceptions. And the housekeeping and cooking staff was phenomenal and so integral for enjoying a positive experience there.
I cannot sing the praises enough about our shaman Paul Diamond, who stepped in for the original Shipibo shamans who were originally booked for our retreat in August 2016. He conducted three Ayahuasca ceremonies over the first five days. Not only did Paul preside over each Ayahuasca experience, he came back in a group share session in the days after each ceremony to listen to our experiences and to offer his insights about them. He also answered our questions from his vast knowledge in various shamanic traditions. The conversations were intriguing and insightful. But during each several-hour Ayahuasca ceremony, witnessing Paul create a safe space and hold it while addressing each participant—including myself—in times of need was one of the most amazing acts of astute intuition and selfless compassion I’ve ever seen. He took his work very seriously, yet in times of propriety, he was so human and humorous and endearing. We all worked together and laughed together. Having the Ayahuasca experience delivered by an English-speaker (albeit one with a charming British accent) to a Western-raised mind and body left me with no anxieties whatsoever and also gifted me with more knowledge than I came with about the rituals, the ceremony itself and shamanism. I owe that to Paul.
The time I spent at the retreat—outside of the plant medicine ceremonies of Ayahuasca and San Pedro (the last day before we left)—was a combination of planned and choice activities and free time to mingle, explore the retreat grounds, pet a dog, chill out or integrate our experiences. Every day was different; the variety of daily events fueled my interests. One day we went horseback riding (the longest, most scenic trail ride up a mountain I’ve ever enjoyed). Another day we shopped at the famous Pisac market. The vegetarian food served at the retreat center was excellent while the mountain-fed water I drank every day whether straight or in hot tea was a dream (I am a natural structured water enthusiast).
I wrote down my intentions for the Ayahuasca ceremonies beforehand—a recommendation of the staff. However, I also did my best to face each ceremony with an intention of having no expectations whatsoever. This turned out to be a critical practice in my sitting with Ayahuasca. My strongest recommendation for a powerful, transformative experience with this medicine is once you’ve committed to come to Mother Ayahuasca—with no reservations or fears but with absolute excitement—to commit also to do the work during ceremony “on the mat.” It’s certainly safe and entertaining to gaze around the room while the plant medicine is working, but to close your eyes, remaining as silent and still as possible, and to journey within is imperative for mining the most out of the Ayahuasca experience. Of course, I used the restroom when I had to and drank water when I was thirsty (my water bottle from home with a spout I could pull up with my teeth came in handy).
Finally, the times I spent sitting in the Ayahuasca ceremonies were the most profound spiritual experiences I’ve had to date—bar none. It’s difficult to choose what to describe from the ceremonies—as my visions and my inner work were all so vast and abstract yet full of meaning—symbolic and intense for me. From sharing out with others afterwards, I know the Ayahuasca experience was individual to each person, according to the intelligence of the medicine—after all, everything’s energy and consciousness. But once the Ayahuasca tea (a bitter, not-your-mama’s brew that kinda makes me want to gag just thinking about it) took effect—I’m guessing after 30-40 minutes, the lessons from my three ceremonies beginning the first night have not yet stopped teaching me.
My conscious awareness—at least at the beginning of my first Ayahuasca ceremony—was sharp and easily directed. After pushing past elaborate, bright visual patterns with my consciousness, I mentally inquired, “Who’s there?” and then called the name of some guides— beings I’d worked with in some previous meditations. Then I felt an opening up and the presence of unconditional love and my higher intelligence. I stated my intentions again. Soon, I was communicating instantaneously without mental speech through thought forms. And apparently, my higher consciousness has a cheeky sense of humor, for what happened next was nothing I ever expected. The understanding I got was something like “Yeah, no, we don’t need to address your intentions. You’re ‘on track’ with your path. It’s best if you continue this work on your own. The breakthroughs you experience will be more valuable and lasting for you and for us if you do them on your own.” And then I was reminded of a “contract” or “agreement” or “intention” I’d made before coming into this existence for doing some important spiritual work. It immediately was clear to me what it was. But I had a choice. I could’ve refused, but without hesitation I consented with a “let’s do this.” The work I began that night was to release negative emotions that had been buried deep within human consciousness. I wanted to know how I was going to do that, and the answer was “Oh, you’re going to purge them—physically.” So, I surrendered, grabbed my empty bucket and waited. Time disappeared; related abstract imagery began; but the symbolic insight and practical meaning from my ensuing visions were immediate. This was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Once I got started with it, I knew I wouldn’t turn back. Paul, the shaman, visited me at least a few times that first night to help unblock my energy at key times I was struggling to coax people (levels of myself? past lives? ancestors?) to release these buried negative emotions. Hours later, when I sat finally peaceful and spent, vowing to myself I would never take Ayahuasca again, Paul visited me one last time to close my chakras. Then I sat in witness to his thoughtful work as he attended fellow retreat members late into the morning. I realized I couldn’t deny myself further spiritual work with this special plant medicine and knew I was in it for the long haul. That next morning I felt lighter, more appreciative and deeply alert to the beauty and deliciousness of surrounding sensory details I encountered throughout the day. This acute awareness and gratitude has not left me in the weeks since I’ve left the retreat.
Two days later during my second Ayahuasca experience, I did my inner work almost exclusively with an elder—a grandmother or ancestor—who waved a sacred feather symbolizing the flow of love. A simple lesson she gave me was a practical technique to use when I witnessed or directly experienced negative feelings from external conflict in the world. She told me to say—with complete conviction—to myself, “I choose love” and let it fan out through me. This practice would allow me to transform any situation before me of turmoil, violence or malevolent intention to one of love and understanding. The negative incident would diminish or disappear or my perspective of it—my emotions tied to it—would detach to see it as a manifestation of others who were struggling with their own issues. In turn, they would have to do their own inner work to solve their problems in a lasting way. For the good of all, the elder said I must learn not to engage in these struggles with them. Instead, I was to disengage and take care of my own business of cultivating the closest vibrational frequencies to those of my inner source—my higher consciousness—through an outpouring of love. She said the more of us who flow love and appreciation in every moment, the more that conflicts—individual and worldwide—fade and even vanish from our experience.
During my last Ayahuasca journey two nights later, I again purged for children (my inner child?), helping them to release any negative fears and emotions their parents had inadvertently passed on to them. Much like the first night of ceremony, this journey taxed me both emotionally and physically. But after completing my work on the mat for the night, I received a gift of insight—a memory before this incarnation of the rendezvous I had as pure consciousness—of the agreement I made to complete this project in this lifetime. I am not a scholar or even a regular practitioner of working with archangels, but I got the distinct recollection of a pact I’d made with Archangel Raphael—which was affirming, considering that in a story I’m currently writing, I’d chosen that name for a symbol. After coming home and researching this angel, I find that Raphael’s mission is one of healing for people, which was a purpose in my three-night trifecta of journeying with the Ayahuasca medicine. In my insight that final night, I also saw a bright red light and felt the presence of another being (Archangel Uriel?) who helped me process the meaning from my visions while I was sitting with the Ayahuasca medicine.
What was my final take-away from working with the Ayahuasca plant medicine at this retreat center? That it was well worth my investment of money, time and effort. The entire experience helped me to unblock and release emotional energies that don’t serve humanity, showed me what’s possible with an alignment with source and clarified for me an intention I know I can return to during each waking moment: to flow love and appreciation to everything and everyone in my life and to have the courage to act toward my greatest excitement. This trip for me was one step in that direction. Would I be eager to experience the Ayahuasca plant medicine again? Most certainly. I’m open to it. The impulse and opportunity will present itself to me again when the retreat, timing and location is perfect.
*I wrote down my intentions for the Ayahuasca ceremonies beforehand—a recommendation of the staff. However, I also did my best to face each ceremony with an intention of having no expectations whatsoever. This turned out to be a critical practice in my sitting with Ayahuasca. My strongest recommendation for a powerful, transformative experience with this medicine is once you’ve committed to come to Mother Ayahuasca—with no reservations or fears but with absolute excitement—to commit also to do the work during ceremony ‘on the mat.’ It’s certainly safe and entertaining to gaze around the room while the plant medicine is working, but to close your eyes, remaining as silent and still as possible, and to journey within is imperative for mining the most out of the Ayahuasca experience.*
– Christine, U.S.A.
Ayahuasca is not the answer. You are the answer, and Ayahuasca will show you how.
To summarize my own experience with the medicine; in my first ceremony, I became somewhat painfully aware of the true nature of my mind and consciousness. This was for good, as it allowed me in the next to connect to an abundant source of unconditional love that wove itself like sutures into the abused and neglected aspects of my soul. Finally, in my last ceremony, I experienced first hand the divine level of reality that has long eluded my rational mind. Above all, I found faith in something much larger than myself and an ability to relax into my own life. Beyond intellectual understanding, I now FEEL that anything that happens to me is a part of my story and anything that I am going through is a part of the process. This, of course, fails to capture all that Ayahuasca did for my companions and I during our retreat. From their experiences and my own, I firmly hold it in my heart that Ayahuasca has lessons and healing for nearly everyone if approached with respectful intention.
The context and environment where one takes the medicine are as vital to the process as the medicine itself. This is where El Camino Sagrado and its incredible healers and teachers come in. It is a truly sublime environment within which to experience Ayahuasca. I felt safe, comfortable, cared for and surrounded by beauty and love from earnest hello to bittersweet goodbye.
Camino Sagrado’s shaman, Paul Diamond, is an ideal fit for any western mind, and especially a first timer. One of the most well-researched men I’ve ever met, Paul spent 20 years traveling the globe learning the spiritual teachings of the East, West, and Prehistorical. He prefers to use the Tantric tradition of Hinduism in his ceremonies, however, if you are more comfortable within the teachings of Christianity, Paul has guidance for you as well. If your foundation is in scientific thought, Paul has the physical, physiological, and psychological understanding to satisfy your rationality. His approach is one of flexible integration without rigid doctrine or unyielding dogma, using whichever mystical tools necessary to facilitate the most positive experience for all that sit with him. Beyond his vast stores of information, Paul has a light-hearted soul, a wonderful sense of humor, and abundant compassion and support for any emotional and esoteric struggles that may arise during ceremony. I personally could not have imagined a better guide for my own process.
Ayahuasca is a beautiful medicine. The work is deep and challenging, yet all that you may see and feel is already inside of you…and there is no growth in hiding from yourself. If you are ready to face the wholeness of your being, open and humble, Ayahuasca has immense gifts for you.
– Paul, U.S.A.
What a pleasure it was to have this amazing experience; absolutely life changing! Upon arriving at Camino Sagrado, the first thing I notice was the gorgeous setting with breathtaking views; I instantly felt at peace. The staff added to my feeling of comfort. Each member of the community makes everyone feel like they are at home and part of the family. From the moment I arrived, throughout my stay, and after I left, I felt that the entire staff deeply cared about me and was there to support me through every step of my journey. My growth would not have been possible without their help.