Before coming to Nihue Rao, I had a lot of hopes for this place after reading Joe Tafur’s book called The Fellowship of the River, I thought I’m finally going to have a real shaman look at me and help me heal, so I opened up to them, telling them my most private issues that I was dealing with at the time thinking Ricardo and his shamans will be able to provide more effective healing if I tell them everything about myself. I also told them about my deep emotional traumas and how there is a high chance of me acting out dramatically during the ceremonies to let out repressed emotions held up over many years of living with social anxiety and depression.
When I first came to Nihue Rao, I could immediately intuit something was not right about the place, the people who did dietas there seemed downtrodden and the staff wasn’t meeting me with friendly open arms and hugs and they definitely didn’t radiate love, the whole vibe was just depressing and this isn’t what I expected from all the glowing reviews I’ve heard about this place and how Ricardo was the master shaman being able to heal people with his 40+ years experience. Despite having this intuition, I just kinda ignored it, thinking that I had too many great expectations for the place.
First ceremony: Ricardo comes in the maloka wearing sportsware and a baseball cap, it’s just another day at the office for him, he sits at his shamanic spot and shortly after starts yawning, falls asleep and starts snoring loudly. All the while people are casually being called to come up and have their drink of Ayahuasca. Okay fine I think to myself, I guess we don’t need any of the “ceremonial formalities” and the shaman doesn’t need to wear his shipibo clothes, casual comfortable clothing will do….
My experience during the ceremony can be described as chaotic because all 6 or so shamans sing their icaros at the same time which sounds like an orchestra missing a conductor, so it can be very difficult to tune yourself to any of the icaros as they tend to blend in. Also with so many people in the maloka (around 25) and all the shamans singing their icaros, the energy can quickly get very overwhelming and I don’t see how they can provide individual help when so much is going on. When I was struggling during one of the ceremonies, with my ego completely dissolving, none of the shamans offered their help, they didn’t come to me to sign icaros or offer their guidance.
When the third ceremony was officially over, I was still feeling the effects and I started having some break throughs, purging and roaring which I felt like were very healing for me because I was releasing a lot of repressed emotions, including anger. At this time, I personally asked Ricardo to continue singing icaros to me, which he did and I’m thankful for that. However, the next day, I was called to speak with Ricardo, and in short, I was told that I was disturbing the pasajeros (other people in the maloka), I told them the ceremony was already over at the time I started having my purges, but they still insisted that I was disturbing people who already went to sleep. I was left confused after this, am I not allowed to purge and express my repressed emotions? How am I to heal myself when I’m told to keep quiet, even after the ceremony is over? I thought this was the whole point of coming to the wild jungle, where I would be able to release some of the wild energies I have repressed for a long time (like many, if not all of us do). When speaking about this during one of the shared talks, I was basically scoffed at and even ridiculed by Martina, telling me something like “you should keep the wild beast to yourself”.
My “wild beast” didn’t want to have any of this though, and it would try to release itself on a few more occasions and they kept telling me I’m scaring and disturbing other people and I’m not allowed to behave in such ways. I kept telling them, this is the whole point of me coming here blah blah blah…..so this drama would continue, until one night, during one of the ceremonies, I openly started telling them how I felt, which only lasted like 1 minute. During this time, apparently many of the pasajeros got scared during my speech, I think it’s because I was speaking with my natural, confident and powerful voice. The next day, all the shamans had a meeting with me in the “creative/arts tambo” and shared what they thought about my absolutely inappropriate behavior, I felt like I was a school boy being ridiculed and scolded by teachers. I was told the same thing about scaring pasajeros and inappropriate loud behavior…..
From my experience, this center cares more about money than real healing, they have a lot of people coming in every week and they try not to go too deep in people’s issues, because that entails a lot more work. Despite many of the glowing reviews here (a lot of which are one paragraph and seem to be fake) I would advise anybody seeking real healing to avoid this place and look for people that genuinely care about healing you on the deepest level, I also recommend looking for a smaller place with 5-6 people in the group at a time and make sure you’ll be able to express yourself in whichever way you want. Being told to keep your mouth shut and not to be loud during your most emotional moments in your life, while you’re in the wild jungle is too ridiculous.