Iquitos and Urubamba in Peru
During one of the post-ayahuasca group shares, in which an inclusive and sensitive environment is created for everyone to talk about their experiences, someone from the group said, ”I just need to know when to lead with my head and when to lead with my heart”. Jose, the founder of Arkana, replied in a very gentle tone, “Well, I think the idea is to lead with both at all times, no?”
For me that statement, as well as the empathetic way in which it was spoken, sums up the entire Arkana philosophy. There is such a deep knowledge and passion for plant medicine, and for healing of all kinds at this center. It can be felt in the attention to detail, the requirement to speak with a medical expert by phone before the retreat even begins, the peaceful grounds, the therapists, reiki practitioners, and energy healers present, the generous and knowledgeable shamans, the balance of male and female energy, the carefully adjusted chemistry of the brew based on feedback from the group, the attentive emptying of ‘purge’ buckets(!), the involvement and relationship with the local community, the meals and ever-available delicious local tea, the brilliant structure of each ritual leading to the next, and especially the inclusion of other healing traditions such as temazcal(sweat lodge), Sapo(DMT extracted from amazonian toad, no toads harmed), and ending the retreat with the blissful San Pedro cactus medicine (best vibe EVER!!!). Not to mention the sweetest two dogs and cat you will ever meet in your life as greeting committee! And the timing of the optional outings and tourist activities (with our personable, well-informed tour guide) seemed to flow seamlessly with the healing experience.
I also think that the intimate nature of this center attracts an interesting and eclectic group. There is zero ego or “guru complex” within the facilitators at Arkana, and this kind of humbleness and mutual respect permeates throughout every interaction there. We consisted of all ages, diverse cultural, social and economic backgrounds, various reasons for being there, and even now I feel deeply bonded to each person in the group through this vulnerable, oftentimes hilarious, and thoughtful communal experience.
I chose to write this review at least one month after the retreat, knowing that I’d be settled back into reality at home. Some old patterns have returned, but for the most part I still feel quite altered for the better from the experience. Shortly after the retreat I received an email from one of the lovely facilitators with a recording of my personal “arkana” (the shamans come around to each individual mat and sing specifically to you based upon your intention). The email included advice on how to adjust back into daily life, what to eat, what to avoid, etc… along with an open-ended invitation to reach out to José or any of the facilitators for advice or help of any nature. And more recently I received a sincere personal email asking how I was doing.
In short, you are in unbelievably kind, good hands with this place. If you’re going to do ayahuasca, whatever your reasons, I can’t recommend Arkana enough.
Something to consider…
Arkana has two locations- Sacred Valley and the Amazon jungle near Iquitos. I went to the New Years retreat in the Sacred Valley. I spoke with a few people who have gone to both retreats, and apparently the jungle is much more energetically intense. They said the experience in Sacred Valley is a little gentler. There are also more tourist destinations such as Machu Picchu and Cusco near Sacred Valley. So that’s something to keep in mind depending on what kind of experience you want to have.