Orillas del Río Uchima, Barrio Sacapo, Parroquia San Pedro de Vilcabamba, Loja, Ecuador
Casa Del Sol,
Where to start. ….
The retreat center:
This was not my first retreat, and not the first center I have visited or been apart of but it was one of the best. The groups are small and made way for an intimate setting, with a group of people that you will call family by the final closing ceremony.
The location. Set just outside of town, on a river at the base of a mountain. The gardens offered great space to reflect and sit with your intentions. You could always find solitude, and a place in nature when you needed it. We had campfires, and watched the fireflies sparking in the trees. The star gazing was some of the best I have seen in the world. Town is only a 2 minute taxi to town, and on days off would indulge in massages, local hot tubs, and great food. It is important to stay close following ceremony, and to spend time reflecting. Town offered this without being overwhelmed. Also a great place to stay on either side of the retreat, with great walking trails, hiking and beautiful nature and vistas. You can find anything you need here, including getting in touch with your hippie side. For many, the opportunity to do this medicine without the nervousness of going deep into the jungle, allowed people a better opportunity to surrender and really get to know the medicines. The food was cooked with care and was always a welcomed treat after returning from ceremony. Everyone spoke English and Spanish, and never felt a language barrier, important when you need to speak to the shamans.
The first ceremony allowed for a share circle, traditionally done on the medicine. This allowed each person a turn, to talk into the fire and release what is holding them back and what they would like to work on. There is no better way to break down walls and surrender then beginning with a San Pedro Ceremony, leaving everything on the “table” so you can get to your core truth and support one another on your personal growth. I believe this was a vital step for starting the journey.
We also had the pleasure of some guests shamans, that held space and blessed us with their wisdom and knowledge. The shamans all offering advice and their utmost attention to each person, you felt safe and supported through the whole experience.
It was also one of the only retreats that I have been to that incorporated hiking and being outside of circle on the medicine. Always done in a safe way, the hikes allowed for self reflection time and being within oneself leading to different development then the sharing circles. San pedro connects you both to other humans but also very strongly to nature and it was beautiful to experience this in the primal way, outdoors. Nature is a great medicine in itself, only exuberated on the medicine. We stopped under an orchard and admired views of the surrounding valley, stopping and picking tangerines that were in bloom. We were washed clean by a powerful waterfall, stopping and resting to over the surrounding villages and houses that dotted the mountains. You will never feel more at home.
Ceremony is a very important part of the plant medicine, and respecting the traditions that have been passed down for generations. Ceremony teaches you to practice gratitude (Which, alone, has been shown in Studies to improve mental health- Harvard Health 2017) Gratitude for water, for Pachamama; for yourself and those around you. They held these traditions with the utmost respect and grace. It was a blessing, and I will forever be humbled to the Shamans for holding the space throughout all our journeys.
Many medicines were on offer, and it was a personal choice at any point if you would like to partake or pass on the medicine, and were never forced into or pressured to go beyond your comfort zone. Rape, liquid tobacco, Kambo, Canelazo (A sugar cane distilled liquor) , Sacred Tobacco, San Pedro, and Aya.
(We were also gifted from visiting shamans with peyote. Mushrooms as well- depending on season)
Each medicine with its own spirit and teachings. It was a blessing to have had the opportunity to get to know each of the medicines. Both in combination and each as a sacred teacher. The medicine is strong, and you can feel the love that goes into it. Always touching you in a gentle and caring way.
For many San Pedro was their favorite teacher, for others it was Aya, for myself it was mushrooms, and you knew this going in to the ceremony and gave the utmost care to address the medicines call.
The Shamans and Family:
Guest Shamans: The knowledge and grace that the visiting shamans brought were a blessing. Ximena and Santiago have gone a long way to source only the best shamans who will always guide you with nothing but the purest intentions.
Titi, a Kambo shaman from Brazil, sat with each person individually speaking about any issues or questions you may have before the medicine, and treating each person gently not to push one beyond their own personal limit. Post Kambo session he would talk about what you were cleansing and what issues that you may have, as far as physical and emotional health. Going into Kambo, I was quite nervous and had some concerns, all were addressed and so glad to have gone through with the medicine.
The two lovely ladies who blessed us during the first San Pedro ceremony had beautiful voices and prayers, an intimate knowledge and respect for the medicine, and incredible grace. It was an honor to have shared space with these Woman.
Ximena, Santiago and Family:
No words can begin to express my love for this family. My brothers, and Sisters never showed anything but unconditional love and support. They have raised some incredible kids, that often help out around the retreat and who carry themselves in years far beyond their age. It was an absolute honor getting to know this family and continuing our bond over the years to come.
Santiago is a very approachable shaman, who’s care and compassion are bar none. The love he has for his wife is a marvel in itself, and a beautiful companionship to witness. His patience during ceremonies, making sure my dosing was correct during ceremony (I had quite a high tolerance and needed several doses to get to where I needed to get) is a true reflection of the sheer experience and connection he has to the medicine. Holding space, and leading ceremony is always a huge responsibility ; always there when someone needed him, valuing group safety above all else, I felt safe to completely surrender to the medicines and have the opportunity to really address all my intentions. Thank you for your service to the medicine and this work brother.
Ximena, what a beautiful goddess. You hold my heart, with your beautiful Icaros, thoughtful teaching and a connection and love for this planet and its beings that will always hold strong with me. Your smile, and motherly love was a blessing to have around. We had many blessings during ceremony, including rainbows, eagles, an earthquake, and a thunder storm to bless the children of thunder. You always held prayers and taught me much about offerings from the water, the land, the sky and all living creatures. Not out of show, but because it was important. You can really feel the respect far beyond a “retreat center” I have been blessed to share these times with you. Thank you for your beautiful soul, your path, and just being you.
Family: Not much to say, all beautiful humans, you have done a fantastic job. Matteo is a incredible kid with a great head on his shoulders and have no doubt all your kids will grow up to bless the world with their presence. I look forward to hosting you when I settle to this wonderful country.
Thank you to all the retreat goers that I shared this experience with, you will always hold my heart, and thank you for your work in your own personal growth.
For all those looking for a retreat center, I can recommend this slice of paradise, with all my heart, and will definitely be returning. (Who knows, maybe I will take Santiagos offering of a vision quest on the Mens retreat)
It is a big step to take, to address yourself and grow. This is the perfect place to allow that growth and start your rejuvenated life. You owe it to yourself, because YOU are worth it.