Spiritual Seeker's Reviews
I’ve recently returned from a retreat at DAS, where I had a very negative experience. If you’re thinking about doing a retreat here, I strongly urge you to reconsider.
I heard about Percy’s place through a friend of a friend, who reportedly had “an amazing experience”. I was very excited to go there and experience some deep and loving healing. Based on the testimonials on his website, I was expecting to be held in my journey by a master shaman, who would be looking out for me energetically. Unfortunately, this could not have been further from what I experienced.
When I arrived on Monday, Percy came to ask me what I wanted. I explained my intentions for my journey. I also asked if it would be all right if I started with a week, then added another four days depending on how I was feeling. He said he needed to know my intentions so that he could tailor my healing process to the amount of time I would be there. I wanted to have a clear intention going into my retreat, and I had read that I should put trust in my shaman and the medicine, so I agreed to stay for 10 days, and paid for it all up front. I got the impression that he disliked that I did this, and also seemed annoyed when I said I wanted to do the Saturday Amazon trip as advertised on the website.
He told me that for the first ceremony, I wouldn’t drink very much and would probably experience little or nothing at all. In fact, he gave me quite a full cup, and I had a very strong experience. Percy sang about four or five icaros, then his assistant Sara sang beautiful icaros for the rest of the night. I was exhausted from traveling, and really wanted to rest, but felt that the ayahuasca wouldn’t let me. At the end of the night, I got a very strong message that I should pack up and get out of there first thing in the morning. Foolishly, I chalked it up to my ego resisting the medicine and being exhausted. When the ceremony had ended, Percy asked me how my experience was, and I said “strong”. He tried to say something else, but I was having trouble understanding him. He said we would talk on Wednesday.
The next day, I discovered that Percy was not at the center on Tuesdays (or any day that there wasn’t a ceremony for that matter). I was disappointed, as I’d assumed he would be there to help me make sense of my experience. I spent the day sleeping and processing. The center was a truly beautiful and relaxing place to hang out, and the dieta food was fantastic. I talked with the other guests and prepared myself for the next night.
On Wednesday, I was hanging out in the common area, and Percy came by. He asked me if I had any questions. I didn’t really, but I was hoping for him to share some guidance or insight into the process he had planned for me. In the afternoon, we met by the river for the floral bath. Percy seemed bored when he showed up. He didn’t look any of us in the eye or say anything during the bath. He just poured the water on our heads. I looked like his mind was somewhere else. When it was my turn, I got a strong feeling that he didn’t really like me. When the bath was over, he said the ceremony would be in an hour.
We all sat waiting in the Maloka. He showed up and did very little preparation, then started calling people up to drink. The woman next to me was sobbing (with fear?) before he even called her up. I got another strong message from my intuition not to participate, but I felt there was no way for me to back out. Everyone was there to drink, and I had to go through with it.
I watched Percy preparing my cup. After he poured in the ayahuasca, he looked thoughtful for a minute, picked up another bottle, and VERY carefully poured just a couple drops of something into my cup. I thought it was kind of weird, but assumed he was just adding another plant to enhance my experience. When he called me up, I heard an undertone of darkness in his voice. I walked up and drank. This time, there was far less in my cup than the first time.
I went back to my mat, and a fire burning in my gut as my body began to take in whatever I’d just drunk. Within 10 minutes I knew I wasn’t going to trip at all. I was annoyed, and hoped that he would offer another drink later in the ceremony, but gave up on that idea pretty quickly. Once again, he sang four or five icaros, then turned it over to Sara. This time, though, he left the Maloka completely, and didn’t return for two or three hours. I lay there listening to Sara’s icaros and feeling completely sober.
When the ceremony finally ended, I heard Sara waking Percy up – he’d apparently fallen asleep. I felt disappointed that he hadn’t been present for nearly the entire ceremony. There was no guidance or protection during the trip, but I supposed it didn’t matter since I hadn’t had a journey. It was announced that we could go back to our huts.
I walked outside and had a very strong feeling of being unsafe. I felt that there was bad energy out there in the night, and there were very sinister sounds coming from the forest. I rushed back to my hut, shut the door and closed the flimsy aluminum lock.
A few minutes later I began to feel very sick. It felt like I was poisoned. It reminded me of the feeling I once had when I’d accidentally eaten unripe ground cherry tomatoes – a nightshade – in the past. I became convinced that the extra thing in my cup must have been Datura / Brugmansia / Toe. This is a poisonous, potentially lethal plant that some shamans are known to use. In the [Ayahuasca Test Pilot’s Handbook](https://books.google.com/books?id=el6OAwAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PT77#v=onepage&q&f=false), one person who consumed it described his experience as “two days in hell”. Of course, I don’t really know what I drank, but having worked with this plant before as a gardener, and based on what came next, I’m fully convinced that’s what it was.
I lay on my bed, feverish, sweating a sticky sweat, my heart racing and my stomach cramped. I called for help but nobody seemed to hear me. I gagged myself and was able to throw up what was left in my stomach. But by this time it had been in my system for four or five hours, so it was too late to prevent feeling sick.
It suddenly dawned on me what a bad state I was in. I had given Percy almost all of the money I’d brought. I had no cell service, plus my phone was mostly out of batteries and there was no electricity to recharge it anyway. It was a half hour hike through the jungle to get to the road, and it was at least an hour by car to get to Iquitos from there. The only way I knew to get back was to ask Percy to call his taxi driver friend to come and get me. I realized I was reliant on him for everything. But I no longer trusted him. It was the middle of the night, it was dark, cockroaches were crawling all over me and my stuff, and there were very evil sounds coming from the forest. Everyone at the center was probably tripping hard or asleep, except for the night guard, who wasn’t responding to my calls for help.
I decided I had to get out of there at the earliest opportunity, but there was no way I was going out into the dark jungle while I was poisoned. I felt that I needed someone to look after me, so I called out for help again, and louder. I clearly said who I was, which hut I was in, and that I felt really sick and didn’t know what to do. But nobody responded and nobody came.
My experience became very dark. I felt that if I didn’t pray for my life, I would succumb to the poison and die. I lit all the candles I had, turned my head lamp on maximum brightness, burned palo santo and cedar incense, and asked every person I could think of who cared about me to pray for me. Although I’m not a Christian, I prayed extensively to God, Jesus, and Mary to get me through the night. I kept reaffirming my desire to live, and every time I did the animals in the forest seemed to laugh at me menacingly.
I thought that if I could make it until dawn, I would be ok because the sun would come up. I planned to high-tail it out of there. The only catch was that I had no way back to Iquitos. My options were to either ask Percy (who had just poisoned me) to call me a car, or risk hitchhiking. I packed my bag and tried to decide what to do, praying all the while. At some point several hours later, another guest came and did an extraction on me, but by this time I had already gotten through the darkest part of the crisis on my own, and it was little help.
Finally, after about eight hours of this, dawn came. So did a very heavy rain. I went out and asked some of the workers if there was a way to get back to Iquitos. They told me to wait until Percy woke up and he would help me. I didn’t really want to do that, so I put on my pack and hiked out of the jungle in the pouring rain, still praying for my safety.
I put out my thumb. After 15 or 20 minutes, I was picked up by a man in a beat up little Toyota hatchback with a picture of Jesus on the stick shift. He took me to Iquitos, where I checked into a hotel. I spent the next 24 hours laying in bed, heart racing and unable to sleep. At one point I felt that I was under psychic attack, but I think I was actually just experiencing extreme paranoia from the influence of the poison and feeling unsafe.
The next day, Friday, I was able to fly from Iquitos to Lima. It took me another day to get out of Peru, because I kept having problems with changing my flights. When I finally took off to fly back to the U.S., I got really bad diarrhea in the plane.
In the end, my sense of Percy is that he is out to make money, and is more actor than shaman. He painted an image of himself as a caring shaman that would protect his guests and guide them through the healing process. But in fact, he stayed away from the center as much as he could, did the minimum amount of work to keep up the appearance of caring for the guests, and left us alone to fend for ourselves during a very dark ceremony.
He had control of everything: arrival and departure from the center, access to food and water, and which plants we ingested when. I was happy to put myself in his hands and trust him, until I felt that he poisoned me for no other reasons than that he didn’t like me and was tempted to play god because of the power he had.
The center itself was beautiful in the day, but at night I felt and heard very dark energies, and my journeys were very much like walking through hell.
I will never go back to DAS, and I urge you to stay away as well.