Iquitos and Urubamba in Peru
I was a lost suicidal gay man who struggled with meth addiction, eating disorders, anxiety and self-acceptance rooted in unresolved childhood sexual trauma. In a very beautiful way, Ayahuasca illuminated my darkness and despair with a light that allowed me to connect, see, feel, sort, understand, forgive and recover. It has been a long and difficult journey, but not a day goes by that I do not smile with gratitude and pride over for my life changing decision to work with Ayahuasca and allow the medicine to continue healing me (it is very true what they say about integration—I continue processing the experience with a supportive therapist and friends who have worked with the medicine). With tears in my eyes, I can genuinely say this: today I am connected, happy, and thriving. I am also profoundly grateful to the healers, facilitators, and retreats in the Amazon and Sacred Valley that led me to the present—a moment I previously never occupied. Arkana figures prominently among them. Arkana Sacred Valley is a beautiful, rooted, and established program to begin or continue an Ayahuasca journey. Honestly, it was not my first. My first was with another reputable program in the Amazon forest one year ago. I signed up for this past New Year’s retreat at Arkana Sacred Valley almost on blind faith because the timing, duration and location of the retreat worked with my travel schedule. I had concerns that Arkana would never live up to my first experience, but it did. I also had concerns that my experience at Arkana would contradict or confuse my first experience, but it did not. It was a profound and seemingly seamless continuation of my earlier journey, and there was so much about my experience with Arkana that made Arkana so special in its own right. The Sacred Valley location is truly serene and mystical, and I loved how Arkana offered field trips to take it all in. And the Arkana property along the rushing Urubamba River could not be a more perfect, beautiful and comfortable spot. I spent many wonderful hours sitting along that river wrapped in a Peruvian blanket I bought at the Cusco market reflecting on the Ayahuasca ceremonies that were exquisitely performed by the Shipibo healers, and assisted by the Arkana facilitators that created a beautiful and safe space. I loved that the ceremonies did not abruptly end when the healers ended their amazing icaros, but continued into the night with the guitars, harps and vocals of the facilitators that helped ease you back to physical reality. I also loved how Arkana thoughtfully and effectively incorporated the use of other medicines like Huachuma (San Pedro) and Sapo (Sonoran Desert Toad). There are many, but one moment that really captured the spirit and love of Arkana was when I came back into my body during the Sapo ceremony. What happened during that ceremony was truly profound (I cannot give it away) and I was very emotional after. I saw the owner Jose across the room and mouthed “thank you.” He smiled at me with all the goodness, warmth, and understanding in the world and mouthed back “you’re welcome.” I think about this often, and how lucky I was to be in the hands of people who really do care about healing others. I have to say it again—Thank You.