Iquitos and Sacred Valley in Peru
I visited the Arkana retreat in the Sacred Valley after 5 years of deliberation. I had the calling (multiple dreams about a kaleidoscope diamond headed snake telling me to drink), but didn’t get up the courage to go until this year. I’m so glad I did and I’m happy I chose this location at this time. My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to have Alise, Angel (Ricardo), Chandra, and Paco as facilitators. They were an amazing and dynamic group of individuals. Each has their own strength in ceremony and got us through some dark nights facing some difficult histories. Alise was ethereal and gentle. Angel was strong and kind. Chandra was attentive, severe, and sweet. Paco was powerful and fluid. They each made the first week bearable. The work we were doing was a lot to handle. They made it possible.
The retreat itself was amazing as well. Felipe made us all feel at home and was extremely helpful in pointing out hiking trails. He’s a great person with fantastic stories. Sami and I enjoyed our time getting to know him and will always keep him in mind when thinking back on the trip. The space itself is small, but that was never an issue. You feel connected to the hills and river because of the size. Everything you need is there. Specifically, water, tea, and fruit at all times. Angel made all the meals, which helped facilitate the days drinking as well as recover on the off days. He’s creative and adapt in the kitchen. There were trips scheduled to town and up to the salt mines located right in the backyard of the retreat. Our guide was great. He was knowledgeable and was able to tie in our purpose at the ceremony with the history of the area. If you wanted to head in to town, there was a day for it. Machu Picchu? You can absolutely go for another $350 dollars. Other hiking trips? Yes, no problem. Tours were provided. We had breathwork, a temazcal ceremony, yoga, massage, and meditation along with the ceremonies. The only thing I wish there were more of was a morning or evening movement practice. We ran and hiked instead, but something more dynamic would’ve been great to get back in our bodies.
The ceremonies were great and difficult. We actually had 3 different shamans over the two weeks we were there. This led to very different experiences in the ceremonies. The first week, Sami and I felt that the space wasn’t held very well (with the exception of the amazing facilitators.) our shaman felt distant, distracted, and unconcerned. Both the suggestions for our intentions and the icaros felt boilerplate since they were the same for everyone. Christian (the shaman) seemed nice, but I ended up singing my own icaros and mentally kicked him out of my space. Sami and I checked in on each other and did all the work together. Angel helped a ton to wrangle our energy when it got difficult. The second week was a complete turnaround. We had shamans that immediately calmed the group with kindness and attention. They had a beautiful sense of strength and compassion. I can’t explain how great it was having them. I can explain, however, an experience I had. I’m skeptical by nature as well as open to novelty (I understand the dichotomy of that statement). I’ve experienced astral projecting and visits to the fourth dimension plenty of times in the past. That feels as real as the physical world. I do find it difficult to believe in a lot of the folklore of mother ayahuasca and powerful shamans. With that said…these shamans knew how to navigate both worlds with skill I’ve never experienced before. I was going through a difficult time on the Monday of the second week. The histories of all my past and future lives were rushing at me. All of my family lines were screaming at me in their pain and trauma. It started becoming overwhelming, so I looked up to see where the shamans were. Unfortunately, they were singing to someone way across the room. So, I thought, I’ll deal with this on my own. Better to not bother them. They’re helping someone. As soon as I thought that, I could hear my icaros being sung right next to me. I looked to my left and the shaman was there. He was both across the room and right next to me. He said “I can give you a break for 10 minutes. After that you have to confront this on your own.” A sense of ease, comfort, and joy washed over me as the pain left. When it came back, I felt ready to face it. The trauma stored in my neck and shoulders washed away and the depression and anxiety shed like a clay shell falling away. Both shamans during the second week had strength and kindness that allowed for healing. They were playfully singing with each other, building off their strength and pushing each other in a gentle way. Both Sami and I had a healing, but difficult experience as we were working on ourselves.
I shouldn’t leave a review without mentioning the San Pedro or 5-MEO-DMT experience. SP the first week gave us the strength to continue with ayahuasca the second week. Sami literally laughed for 6 hours straight. Everyone who drank became the funniest version of themselves. Our jokes were creative, novel, intelligent, and obscure, but somehow hilarious. We became more social because we were at ease. At night I had more introspective thoughts and explored an expanding universe and the mathematical equation that would see it end in a singularity as it compressed and expanded again. Fantastic. Like MDMA and Psilocybin together. The second week SP led to an extremely calming and expressive walk in the hills. Sapo, on the other hand, was rough. I wasn’t in terror. I wasn’t afraid. I did throw up more than I’ve ever experienced and released a ton of trauma. The sad part is that I don’t know what I saw. I took it in, felt the darkness come on and saw something in my past that shut me down completely. After that I was throwing up for about 45 minutes. I won’t do sapo again. I wouldn’t dissuade others from taking it. It’s just not for me. I want something I can work on. I don’t want to take anything that shuts me down.
I’m very happy with my experience overall. I’m already planning on going back in a year with other people who have been asking me to go with them. The thing I’m going to offer them, after knowing what I know, is a movement, breathwork, and meditation program to help integrate after their trip. I’ve been having difficulty with how many senses are overwhelmed by living in NYC. I did the worst thing possible, I scheduled 12hr days for two weeks straight (with another training certification over the weekend) with clients. As a trainer, I’m responsible for others emotional and physical wellbeing in our sessions. That leaves very little time to address my own needs. Sami, Ari, and I have been calling it integration impossible (coined by Paco during the first San Pedro ceremony). I’m already starting to feel the trauma creep back into my hips and upper back. If I had a week of integration built around realeasing the tension and strengthening around it, I think I’d be further along in my progress.
It was amazing to meet some really great people and start to heal some unheard trauma.