Iquitos and Sacred Valley in Peru
I attended Arkana, Sacred Valley location, this past spring. The centre is beautiful and very comfortable-great food, beds, showers, etc. Yes, the place is first and foremost run as a business, which I can see from other reviews bothers some people, but I didn’t mind. This place is safe, and honestly, running it as a bit of a commercial enterprise keeps it safe, in my opinion.
I have to single out Angel, Alise, Paco and Rafael-such humble, compassionate, caring people! I learned so much from them.
Why not 5 stars? The staff are a bit disorganized, and we weren’t allowed the opportunity to check in as a group after 2 out of 3 of our sessions, like we were supposed to. Of course, we all chat, but I think a facilitated debrief is important. Also, I think Chandra should be a bit more discerning in selecting volunteers. There was one facilitator (I won’t mention his name because he thankfully no longer works there) who was incredibly immature, boasting about how much ayahuasca he had done, acting like a 5 year old. He was clearly there for the free drugs and nothing else, and it’s alarming he was allowed to stay for months (he was primarily at the Amazon jungle location, so maybe they do things differently over there).
I also want to add a note for folks who are considering ayahuasca as a potential treatment for severe anxiety. That’s why I was there. I had dabbled with therapies and meditation in the past, but never consistently, and had one terrible mushroom trip-that was the extent of my experience with psychedelics. Going into this experience, I had a fear of physical pain and discomfort (nausea, purging, as well as unfamiliar bodily sensations), but no fear about potential visual hallucinations. So, I guess it’s not surprising my trips manifested themselves purely in the body, and not in the mind. I didn’t purge, but I probably should have. During my second ceremony, I started to feel like my limbs were being ripped out of my body, and that my face was being attacked and cut up by chopsticks-it was the most intense physical pain I had ever felt (don’t worry! you always come out of the ceremonies feeling the best you ever have in your life-really nothing to be scared of) I realize now, this was my version of approaching ego death, as I really felt I was dying, but my ego is was so intact and my mind so rigid after a lifetime of destructive thinking, that I was able to stop the experience by curling into a fetal position and repeating to myself “this too will pass” until the medicine wore off. I have since started practicing Vipassana meditation (10 day retreat and now for 2 hours per day) and I do wish I had learned that technique before trying ayahuasca. I know I would have allowed my trip to run its course and I think I would have experienced what they call ego death. I have absolutely no regrets about trying ayahuasca and will do it again, but I would strongly suggest that any folks reading this who have anxiety, to try meditating very seriously for months before trying aya-you will get so much more out of it!