Sacre Valley, Cusco, Perú
At risk of being cliché, my decision to embark on a 5 day retreat at Sapan Inka was, quite certainly, the most important one I have ever made. I am a careful person, a hypochondriac. Like, I get a momentary surge of panic when I take one too many Tylenol. Nonetheless, I felt this constant, nagging urge to see the world from a new perspective. I felt happy, but stagnant and unsatisfied with the pace of my personal growth. After thoroughly researching ayahuasca, I thought it might just be my anticipated catalyst for growth. Now, 6 months post retreat, I reflect back on these initial “curiosities” with overwhelming gratitude, because the outcome was profound, beyond words.
I look back at Sapan Inka with the same gratitude. I was able to find a state of comfort so quickly in the home of Erik and Nilda. I felt comfortable with the other participants, and the morning after the first ceremony, the connection I felt with everyone in the home was incredible. For context, I was a 25 year old female traveling solo through Peru, and I was terrified that I would feel unsafe at this “psychedelic gathering” I had so willingly signed up for. However, from the moment I was picked up from my hostel in Cusco, I felt safe, comfortable, and cared for. Erik and Nilda can be described as nothing less than angelic. They have these transcendent smiles that seem to embody kindness and wisdom. These smiles will make you feel welcome and comfortable throughout the entire retreat.
The morning after each ceremony, Erik will provide invaluable insight to your experience, free of judgement (visions can be very personal). You will have lots of time for personal reflection, as well as connecting with the others at the retreat. Despite getting only a couple hours of sleep each night (sometimes none at all), I felt thoughtful, euphoric, and energized the entire time. For months after the retreat, I could access this feeling of euphoria with a deep sigh and a bit of intention. It’s an unbeatable feeling. My strongest memory of the ceremonies was this “eureka!” sense of realization: “I found it, I found exactly where I am supposed to be. Why isn’t everybody in this place?” I would describe the visuals, but whenever I try, people give me the look that says, “Oooooh I get it, you’re off your rocker!” Regardless, I felt like everything before the retreat was slightly derailed, and suddenly I had found alignment.
Aside from recommending Sapan Inka passionately and wholeheartedly, I have a few general aya recommendations. Follow the recommended diet, both before and after. Aside from avoiding serious chemical reactions, it will give you a cleansed feeling that helps your headspace from straying to dark places. You want to be your purest self when you enter the ceremony temple. Afterward, you will better reflect on the experience if you maintain the diet, because you will more readily connect with the medicine, which seems to stay with you for months. Next, be prepared for fear. Even with Erik and Nilda creating the best environment imaginable, ayahuasca will take you to places of discomfort at some point in the trip. Like I said, I am a hypochondria, and I have gone into anaphylactic shock from an allergy attack before. On the third ceremony, I was certain that it was happening again. I was sweating profusely, felt like I couldn’t breath, and was writhing on my mat. I accepted that I was definitely going to die, and I decided to not scream out for help, and to just keep breathing, and the feeling passed. Long story short, practice your anxiety diminishing breathing techniques, so that it is second nature to breath through uncomfortable sensations, because like any state of panic, freaking out will only amplify the discomfort. My last bit of advice, is to do an ayahuasca retreat, not a single ceremony; this is vital! My three ceremonies felt influenced by three entirely different substances; it was three different worlds. If I had any one of them without the other two, well it would be okay, but it would not have provided the depths of insight that changed my life. It might sound exhausting, but the energy you find at Sapan Inka will give you the desire to continue taking this unpredictable and ego-shattering medicine.
Erik and Nilda have a powerful presence during the ceremonies as they sing the Icaros and perform the protecting rituals, and outside of ceremony, they have a gentle kindness that I constantly strive to emulate. In another ten years, I may drink ayahuasca again, and I hope that it is in the presence of the wonderful Shamans, Erik and Nilda.