I had the pleasure of attending two of Steve’s San Pedro ceremonies in beautiful Vilcabamba, and I actually remember saying to a friend “I think this is the best money I’ve ever spent.”
The ceremonies were at Steve’s home, which is simple and peaceful, and I stayed 3 nights there in his outdoor patio area. Mosquitos were never an issue for me, though I slept with a hoodie on anyway, and I also sleep with relaxing music playing in my earbuds, so I can’t really speak to the noise level either.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the ceremonies other than the fact that they provide you much time for contemplation and reflection, without much of any talking. And I was looking forward to that aspect in particular because in the previous San Pedro ceremonies I had been in, there was nothing but talking going on (though in a controlled sort of group-therapy sort of way), and that was well and good, but I felt it was really important to really listen to the medicine.
I enjoy a rather cozy, loving relationship with Mother Ayahuasca, and I wanted to develop the same thing with Grandfather San Pedro. We had spoken briefly on two different occasions, but we’d never really had a chance to speak for very long.
And let me tell you, the difference between the structure of the San Pedro ceremonies that Steve offers and the ones I had experienced before made ALL the difference in the world.
I went from having 2 very brief interactions with San Pedro to 2 entire DAYS-worth of conversations with the medicine, which was just immensely helpful, so much so that I really feel like this is really the best way to experience the medicine.
You’re given much time and space, but Steve also keeps a watchful eye out and even comes to check on everyone periodically.
He’s a trained counselor but also clearly knows the value of simply sitting with someone.
On a funny side note, I remember thinking that while I was gently swinging from his hammock, watching the little patches of cloth that hang from his patio roof flow and sway in the breeze, with the beautiful Andes mountains in the background, “Plant medicine is so much better in a hammock!”
So anyway, if you feel the calling to partake in San Pedro, I don’t believe you will be disappointed, particularly if you get a hold of Steve and make the trip to Vilca.
Via a Llayzhatan Bajo, Ecuador
When I was looking for an Ayahuasca retreat center, I came across this one, and it sounded great (the hot tubs in particular), but I wasn’t sure if I’d be losing any sense of authenticity by coming here instead of some place in the Amazon jungle in Peru.
After seeing many, many different stories and documentaries about peoples’ various Ayahusca experiences, I realized that bugs are large part of being in the middle of a jungle, and at least for me, I didn’t want that distracting me.
Now, after having been to Gaia Sagrada earlier this year (2015), I can tell you that it is certainly 100% authentic. My life was forever changed for the better there, and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful. The work that Christine, the co-owner of the center, is doing there with the Shamans on her team and an ever-changing staff of the highest caliber of salt-of-the-Earth people is almost beyond words.
SO many people are being transformed there, myself included, and when you’re there for any significant amount of time, the energy in the air is just palpable! The staff are all friendly and helpful (they enjoy what they do and actually want to be there vs. just being at a job), and the shamans are extremely wise but yet kind and down-to-Earth. They welcome you with open arms and treat you as a member of the family.
The first shaman I met was Salvador, in my shamanic cleansing (which is well worth the extra $25 or so), and from the moment I stepped foot in the door, his warm, beaming smile and kind, gentle spirit put my mind at ease.
Being nestled in the Ecuadorian Andes makes for one of the most breathtakingly beautiful backdrops you could ever wish for. It’s the stuff movies are made of! And the view of the night sky will absolutely take your breath away. I tend to forget how many stars are hidden from view when you’re in the city, but when you’re here and you look up and see the universe in front of your eyes, it’s just spellbinding.
In all fairness though, I should point out that this isn’t glamping either. It’s not intended to be a vacation, but rather a soul searching journey that won’t be all rainbows and sunshine. There’s plenty of that too though, believe you me! When your spirit is free of the shackles that are weighing you down, you will feel like dancing, and you’ll probably be smiling so much that your cheeks get sore (seriously!).
When I first arrived, I was torn to shreds inside for reasons too lengthy to get into here, but when I left, not only did I feel genuinely whole again, I also had a whole new perspective on my life. More importantly, it wasn’t just something that was given to me. No one waved a wand and *poof* I was better. It took openness, a suspension of skepticism, much pondering and soul searching, sharing of painful thoughts and experiences with others (which helped us form what I believe are lifelong bonds), and both mentally and physically turbulent work during the ceremonies.
I was truly pushed to my limits at times, but what I got out of it mere words fail to accurately describe.
I never expected that my fellow travelers would play such a HUGE role in my/our recovery either. They and the staff at Gaia Sagrada have become like a second family to me, and I don’t say that lightly. Each and every person there contributed in their own way to my experience, and if there’s one piece of advice I can offer you, it’s to socialize while you’re there, especially if you’re really struggling. Everyone else there will be struggling with their own demons, and I can guarantee you that you will glean from each others’ own perspectives throughout the experience, and everyone will be better off for it.
After the experiences I had, which include seeing my fellow travellers’ lives change right in front of my eyes as I was experiencing my own transformations, I want more of that. I mean that’s just the good stuff that life is made of! I feel like when I was there, I had returned to a place in my soul that just felt so right that I’ve decided to return in just about a month now to participate in the work exchange program there.
The idea that I can meet even more amazing people from all around the world is incentive enough in itself, but to also be able to play some small, supporting role in their own healing and to watch their lives transform as mine did, is enough for me to know that this will be one of the most rewarding chapters of my life.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking to make your own journey, and I welcome you to join us. All you have to do is come with an open mind, be yourself, and be ready to confront your demons. With the boundless love and guidance of the amazing people here, if you put in the effort, you will be successful, and your life will forever be better off for it.
I look forward seeing you there.
P.S. I’ll be at Gaia Sagrada starting mid-September of 2015, so if you’re ready to join us, please feel free to reach out to me and let me know if I can help answer any questions you may have. I’ll be more than happy to share my own experiences, and I’d love to hear your story and get to know you better too.